Program in Environmental Design

Ron Frantz, AIA, Director
830 Van Vleet Oval
Norman, OK 73019
Phone: (405) 325-2444
FAX: (405) 325-7558
rfrantz@ou.edu
architecture.ou.edu/environmental/

General Information

The Environmental Design program at the Christopher C. Gibbs College of Architecture offers an interdisciplinary perspective on all aspects of how the built environment impacts the people and communities.  The program emphasizes service learning and community engagement.  Students study topics in architecture, city planning, equity, heritage conservation, historic preservation, landscape architecture, real estate, and urban design, and gain experience through project-based coursework.  Some coursework includes collaborations with faculty and students who are in other College of Architecture programs including Architecture, Interior Design, Landscape Architecture, and Regional and City Planning.  

Students in Environmental Design courses work alongside the OU Institute for Quality Communities to partner with Oklahoma towns and cities to solve challenges they are facing. Through recent work, Environmental Design students contributed to:

  • Public space concepts in Altus, Alva, and Durant. 
  • Preservation of cultural resources in Moore, Oklahoma City, Wagoner, and Waurika.
  • Design recommendations for safer downtown streets in Blanchard and Norman.
  • Heritage conservation and speculative design solutions for rural, Black towns like Tullahassee. 
  • Strategic planning for commercial district development in downtown Norman and Oklahoma City's Bricktown, Plaza District, Uptown, and Deep Deuce areas.
  • Parking strategies and bicycle route planning in downtown Chickasha.
  • Understanding pedestrian traffic and safety issues in Bricktown (Oklahoma City).

Environmental Design Vision

The Environmental Design Program is all about working with real communities, turning ideas into action, and turning dreams into doing. The students gain exposure and experience working in cities, small towns, and communities that are not necessarily defined by size or geographic location.

The program teaches students how to investigate the social and physical challenges that harm communities. The program gives students, who are looking to do something significant, the know-how and ability to contribute to all places. This kind of collaborative, community-minded, inclusive design occurs through community service that is outside the classroom. They turn ideas into actions for real projects and for everyday people. The program gives students a glimpse into what it feels like to make the world better for others while creating a meaningful career that shapes the future of our communities. This program prepares students to follow various paths:  graduate school (within the College of Architecture or at another university), private sector employment, or governmental agency or non-profit organization employment. Students will be ready to engage and to make changes happen by design and through spirited collaboration. This is what “placemaking” is about. It is where community engagement, ideas, and making a difference meet. It is how dreaming becomes doing.

Programs & Facilities

Academic Opportunities

Environmental Design students are strongly encouraged to participate in one of the many Study Abroad Programs offered in the Christopher C. Gibbs College of Architecture (GCA). Other academic programs—Architecture, Construction Science, Interior Design, and Landscape Architecture—offer a variety of travel experiences both across the United States and throughout the world. Environmental Design students have contributed to these valuable educational and service learning activities.

Non-Academic Institutional Experiences

Environmental Design students have a unique opportunity to engage with service learning opportunities through the OU Institute for Quality Communities (IQC). IQC is an outreach center that brings together GCA students, faculty, and staff to assist Oklahoma communities. The design assistance happens in a variety of ways—out in Oklahoma communities. Students in Environmental Design classrooms are part of interdisciplinary project teams that work alongside professionals and with government and non-profit clients. These community-based projects focus on:  

The students begin to gain experience and add to their resumes in a way that complements their academic studies. For more information, please visit this website: OU Institute for Quality Communities

Non-Academic Community Exposures

Due to the nature of the studies in the Environmental Design program, students are “out there” doing projects and getting their hands dirty. This work lets them get to know community leaders in all sectors of society: private, governmental, and non-profit organizations. Exposure to representatives in these organizations includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • American Institute of Architects, Central Oklahoma Chapter
  • AIA Oklahoma
  • American Planning Association
  • BlackSpace Oklahoma
  • City of Oklahoma City Planning Department and Historic Preservation Planning Department
  • The Coltrane Group, Historic Black Town Tours
  • Downtown Oklahoma City, Inc.
  • The Moore-Lindsay Historical House Museum (Norman)
  • Neighborhood Alliance of Central Oklahoma
  • Norman Arts Council
  • Norman Downtowners
  • Oklahoma Arts Council
  • Oklahoma Brownfields Program/Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality
  • Oklahoma Main Street Center/Oklahoma Department of Commerce (and local Main Street programs throughout the state)
  • Oklahoma Municipal League
  • Oklahoma State Historic Preservation Office/Oklahoma Historical Society
  • Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust/Local County Healthy Living Programs 
  • Preservation Oklahoma, Inc.
  • Western History Collection/OU Norman Campus
  • Urban Land Institute

Students are strongly encouraged to attend activities and conferences sponsored by the American Institute of Architects, the American Planning Association, and the Urban Land Institute as well as the IQC Placemaking Conference.

Bachelor of Science

The Bachelor of Science in Environmental Design (En.D.) program is an undergraduate program in the Christopher C. Gibbs College of Architecture (GCA) that gives students who want to make a difference the know-how and ability to work on critical community issues. From revitalizing historic downtowns to imagining new neighborhoods, En.D. students learn about problems that are worth solving to make places that matter for people.

Flexible Plan of Study

The Environmental Design program is notable for its flexible degree plan with many electives. Environmental Design students can build a custom plan of study based on their interests, selecting elective courses from GCA programs in Architecture, Construction Science, Interior Design, Landscape Architecture, and Regional & City Planning.  

Environmental Design students also take ecology electives that provide a sustainability emphasis to the studies in the Bachelor of Science in Environmental Design.

Well-Suited for Transfer Students

While many Environmental Design students come to the program straight from high school, a number of our students transfer from other undergraduate degrees or enroll after junior college studies. The degree plan remains flexible as students come to the program in various stages of study or from different backgrounds of study. 

Pathway to Specialized Master's Degrees

The Environmental Design degree is an excellent pathway to further studies in graduate programs including Architecture, Interior Design, Landscape Architecture, Regional & City Planning, and Urban Design.  All of these programs are part of the Christopher C. Gibbs College of Architecture with the exception of the Urban Design Program which part of the OU Tulsa campus.  Other students have gone onto other graduate programs around the world including architecture, landscape architecture, golf turf management, law, and public policy.

For those who go directly into the professional work world, students joined architectural firms, city and county planning departments, Americorps, non-profit public space design organizations, construction firms, and state governmental agencies.  

The Environmental Design degree is a program with several elective options in addition to the general education requirements. While many Environmental Design students come to the program straight from high school, a number of our students transfer from other undergraduate degrees or enroll after junior college studies. These core courses remain flexible as students come to the program in various stages of study or from different backgrounds of study.

Accelerated Programs

Courses

EN D 3440. Mentored Research Experience.3 Credit Hours.

0 to 3 hours. Prerequisites: ENGL 1113 or equivalent, and permission of instructor. May be repeated; maximum credit 12 hours. For the inquisitive student to apply the scholarly processes of the discipline to a research or creative project under the mentorship of a faculty member. Student and instructor should complete an Undergraduate Research & Creative Projects (URCP) Mentoring Agreement and file it with the URCP office. Not for honors credit. (F, Sp, Su)

EN D 3893. Intro to Urban Real Estate Development.3 Credit Hours.

Prerequisite: Junior standing. This course will explore the formation of places through the study of real estate topics and guest lectures from related professions. Real estate development is a process by which the built environment is produced and modified over time. It results from the actions of many individuals and groups working within a context of natural environment, politics, culture, economics, and more. (F)

EN D 3993. Environmental Design Practicum.3 Credit Hours.

Prerequisite: Junior standing. In-depth and on-site problem solving workshop focused on helping community stakeholders address real world challenges found in their local built environments. Emphasis is given to phasing proposed investments in the public and private realms. Subject matter varies and is reflective of a host of issues common to urban development. (Sp)

EN D 4893. Historic Preservation Planning.3 Credit Hours.

Prerequisite: Junior standing. Through this course, students will: understand and be able to articulate the social and economic values associated with preservation; Gain exposure to and understanding of local, state and federal guidelines for delineation and regulation of historic districts and buildings; Develop case studies in economic feasibility and adaptive reuse, reconstruction and rehabilitation; Understand the role of the State Historic Preservation Office; Understand design-based and economic development based community and district revitalization strategies. (F)

EN D 4993. Environmental Design Capstone.3 Credit Hours.

Prerequisite: senior standing. Provides students a hands-on service/learning opportunity, presenting real world challenges that require collaboration and the application of acquired expertise within the dynamic context of a community's social and built environment. (Sp)[V].

Faculty

Last Name First/Middle Name Middle init. OU Service start Title(s), date(s) appointed Degrees Earned, Schools, Dates Completed
Frantz Ronald H 2011 ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF ARCHITECTURE, 2011; WICK CARY PROFESSOR OF THE INSTITUTE FOR QUALITY COMMUNITIES, 2011; DIRECTOR, SMALL TOWN STUDIOS, INSTITUTE FOR QUALITY COMMUNITIES, 2011; COORDINATOR, BACHELOR OF SCIENCE IN ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN PROGRAM, 2013 MS, Tulane Univ, 2004; BS, Tulane Univ, 1981
Hampton Shane R 2013 WICK CARY PROFESSOR OF THE INSTITUTE FOR QUALITY COMMUNITIES, 2016; DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE FOR QUALITY COMMUNITIES, 2016; ADJUNCT INSTRUCTOR OF ARCHITECTURE, 2014; RESEARCH ASSOCIATE OF THE INSTITUTE FOR QUALITY COMMUNITIES, 2013; INSTRUCTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN MA, Univ of Oklahoma, 2013; BA, Univ of Oklahoma, 2011
Morrison Vanessa 2020 ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE FOR QUALITY COMMUNITIES, 2020; AFFILIATE FACULTY, 2017; INSTRUCTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN MS, Univ of Oklahoma, 2015; BS, Univ of Oklahoma, 2011