with Nathan Pickard, Austin Tunnell, and Jennifer Griffin
November 10, 2020
What are the challenges in building with solid load-bearing masonry today? Can a traditionally designed and constructed building achieve not just a net-zero but a net-positive sustainability rating? Is this type of project financially feasible in today’s market, especially in a mid-market city like Tulsa, OK? And finally, what role can a project like this play in building local strength and community vibrancy in a historic urban neighborhood, one that has experienced decades of disinvestment?These questions are at the heart of The Joinery, a regenerative infill project located in The Heights, a historic urban neighborhood just north of downtown Tulsa and adjacent to the location of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. The 3,180-square-foot, two-story live-work is the first project in Oklahoma to seek a Living Building Challenge certification from the International Living Future Institute, one of the world’s most rigorous sustainability certifications. In doing so, it has employed principles of traditional architecture as well as traditional load-bearing masonry construction as key components of the project.In this session of the Case Studies series, Nathan Pickard (owner and visionary) and Austin Tunnell (mason and contractor) present this incredibly ambitious yet humble project and discuss both the challenges and successes that have come from the inspiring process of its fruition.
Nathan Pickard is an incredibly active community-minded entrepreneur based in Tulsa, OK, and is the owner of and creative mind behind The Joinery - a traditionally-designed, load-bearing masonry, fully-sustainable, infill project located in the historic urban neighborhood of The Heights. In 2006, Nathan and his family moved to The Heights, located just north of downtown Tulsa--a neighborhood like many in north Tulsa that had suffered from decades of racially-motivated disinvestment. Since then, Nathan and his wife, Kristin, have been a driving force for good in the neighborhood, starting with the establishment of a community garden as well as teaching cooking classes out of their own kitchen to neighborhood kids.More recently, in addition to running a successful data analytics ‘for-benefit’ corporation, Nathan founded Restoration Collective, Inc, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving community well-being and to building local strength among residents within neighborhoods north of downtown Tulsa. As a part of this effort, Nathan has established various programs and initiatives such as the Tisdale Food Forest, the Craftsman Guild, and the Emerson Montessori Foundation.Austin Tunnell is the founder of Building Culture, a design + build firm based in Oklahoma that specializes in solid load-bearing masonry new construction and historic restorations.
Prior to his endeavors in the building industry, Austin had started his professional career as a CPA. However, in 2013, he decided to take his life in a new direction by relocating to Panama to work with Kalu Yala in building a sustainable new town. It was here that Austin was first introduced to Clay Chapman, whose US-based company Hope for Architecture has been building solid load-bearing masonry structures for nearly a decade with the mission of rescuing the values and wisdom of the past in order to contribute to a lasting built environment today. Austin subsequently spent two years training under the master builder, and upon the completion of his apprenticeship founded Building Culture.
Since then, Austin and his team have continually pursued projects with a mission to support environmental sustainability and community well-being through the use of traditional building materials, methods, and craftsmanship.Jennifer Griffin (who will moderate the discussion) is an architect, urban designer, and founding principal of J Griffin Design, LLC based in Tulsa, OK. She has worked in the US, Europe, and Central America on a variety of projects, from small-scale renovations and additions of historic structures, to mixed-use urban infill projects, to master plans at both the neighborhood and regional scales. Her work has received both national and international accolades, including four Congress for the New Urbanism Charter Awards as well as an Award of Excellence in Urban Design from the global organization INTBAU.
At its core, Jennifer’s work is rooted in a deep understanding of the relationship between the built environment and human flourishing, striving to create places and spaces that support our ability to live well in community with each other. Jennifer has lectured throughout the US, and has served on the faculty at the University of Notre Dame and the University of Oklahoma, as well as taught for the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art.
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