Oral Roberts University

Tulsa, Oklahoma is absolutely littered with gems that I have taken for granted my entire life.  Today, I was able to spend some time wandering the campus of Oral Roberts University and see some of the interesting architecture that, previous to now, I’ve never taken the time to see up close and in person.

ORU was founded in 1963 by evangelist Oral Roberts and remains the largest Charismatic Christian university in the world, typically educating just under 4,000 students from home and abroad.  It is home to several rather interesting structures, but none as catching as the impossible-looking Prayer Tower in the center of the campus.

The Prayer Tower opened in 1967 and was quite controversial, as it was thought that such a blatant religious structure would interfere with the university’s accreditation status.  Truly a sight to behold, the golden spire’s shape is loosely based on that of a cross and contains many symbolic angles.  From above, it resembles the Star of David.  The red-colored cross-hatch lattice around the observation deck is meant to evoke Jesus’ crown of thorns and the blood shed for the salvation of man.  Atop the spire is a flame designed to represent baptism in the Holy Spirit.  Whether or not you believe, it is quite obvious that a lot of love, care, and attention went into the design of this unique structure.

Next door to the main university campus is the Mabee Center, an arena that seats just over 11k folks on a sold-out night.  It plays host to home games for the ORU Golden Eagles basketball team.  It has also had it’s fair share of musical guests, from Johnny Cash to Luciano Pavarotti.  I myself have seen a few concerts there and, in my youth, recall several enjoyable performances of Sesame Street Live.  The building was constructed in the early seventies and, while not nearly as extravagant as the Prayer Tower, does have a good sense of individuality and has a unique place on/near the Oral Roberts Campus.

Afterwards, I walked across 81st street to take a look at the Citiplex Towers.  The buildings were originally Oral Roberts property known as the City of Faith Medical and Research Center, and was even planned to be a major Christian hospital complex.  However, just a few years of operation rendered the buildings mostly empty and was sold off/converted into office space.  The towers stick out in Southern Tulsa for several reasons.  They are gold.  The tallest building is sixty stories tall, whereas the only other buildings that size in town reside in downtown.  Although I’m not a huge fan of gold, they are beautiful in their own way and are an iconic part of town.

Finally, the Praying Hands.  Giant bronze hands formed in prayer.  These babies were originally situated in front of the Citiplex Towers, but when they were sold off the hands were moved to the entrance of ORU.  They are intimidating and curiously detailed.  It’s another one of those structures I’ve driven by my entire life but not really put much effort into actually LOOKING at it.  They really are quite beautiful.

And that was that.  The sky started clouding up and rain came into town.  I spent the rest of today inside, but it sure was good to get out and get back into my photography.

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