Eric Standridge is a freelance writer with an interest in history. His main focus is writing about Oklahoma.
The Mystical Center of the Universe
Archimedes wrote about it, Jules Vern theorized about it, and the Nazis searched for it, and still, it lies comfortably situated in the heart of downtown Tulsa. It has been called a void in the fabric of space; a space haunted by mystic energy and profound revelations, and yet it is so ordinary that most pass right through it.
All of the great scholars and thinkers out there can finally find peace; Tulsa has found The Center of the Universe. In fact, a lot of Tulsans have known about it for years.
While it may not be the true center of the universe, it is nonetheless a magical and mysterious place.
Tulsa Center of the Universe: An Acoustic Anomaly
The Tulsa Center of the Universe is a worn concrete circle, approximately thirty inches in diameter, within the middle of another circle made up of thirteen bricks. Overall, the center is a little more than eight feet in diameter.
The center of the universe is an acoustic anomaly; when one stands in the center of the circle and makes a noise, that noise is echoed back several times louder than it was made. Imagine dropping a small pin and expecting to hear a tiny “tink” as it hits the floor. Instead, the sound the pin makes is more like the loud crash of a gong.
While this in itself is amazing, the truly amazing thing is that no one standing outside of the circle can hear a thing. A foghorn could be going off in the center of the circle, and those on the outside wouldn’t hear it. Or rather, that’s how the legend goes.
In reality, your voice does become extremely distorted when heard from outside the circle. Supposedly, the parabolic reflectivity of the circular planter walls causes the distortion. Many people have spent a lot of time studying how this effect is made, but there has been no consensus on what causes it. Maybe it is the ghosts of a parallel dimension toying with us, or maybe it’s a simple vortex where cosmic energies collide. Whatever the causes of the distortions are, it is truly an amazing place.
Located in downtown Tulsa at the apex of a rebuilt span of the old Boston Street Bridge between 1st and Archer Street, the Center of the Universe is easy to find. A brick path leads to the pedestrian bridge that goes over the railroad tracks, accessible from the corner of W. Archer St. and N. Boston Ave. It is located directly northwest of the old Union Train Depot (now the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame), and immediately south of the Williams Center Tower.
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The Artificial Cloud in Downtown Tulsa
Several feet southwest of the Center of the Universe rests another great downtown Tulsa landmark. Created for the 1991 Mayfest, Native American artist Robert Haozous created a great sculpture named “Artificial Cloud.” The sculpture is 72.5 feet tall, the work was created on the premise that more people would look at a naturally rusting steel cloud than at the real thing.
The Tulsa Convention and Visitors Bureau website describes it as "a silent commentary on man’s love of technology and the destructiveness that can come from that infatuation. The surface of the sculpture has been allowed to rust, to show the effect of time and the atmosphere."
Haozous' concerns about the state of the Earth are evident in this piece of work, as he designed it as a way of drawing attention to pollution and other destructive practices.
Bob Haozous tells interviewer Larry Abbott in A Time of Visions:
"It's seventy-two and a half feet tall, but it wasn't made to erode or rust. It's more like there was an intentional effort not to preserve it. And that's a major thing. That's an important statement because steel rusts and if you try to keep it from rusting, you're going against nature. But that's okay, you know, you can make things last forever if you want to. But my statement was not to preserve it but to leave it as it was because it's going to rust anyway. It's one of man's tools and it's guaranteed to disappear in a thousand or two thousand years. There are many meanings in that piece, but its primary statement comes from an idea I've been thinking about for a long time. And that is, in the future, we're going to have to make our environments. We're going to pollute the earth and the sky so much that we have to either move underground or into dome-type buildings and pump in purified air so we can breathe. So I've gradually been going into the direction of making artificial nature."
Haozous had a lot to say about technology and its impact on today’s society. Shackles on the lower base of the statue are meant to symbolize the shackles that were placed on the Indians of early America. The long, center section illustrates humans without hands among a mass of airplanes. It is a very unique work of art, and the detail is stunning.
Whether you come to visit downtown Tulsa's Center of the Universe or Haozous's Artificial Cloud, you won't be disappointed. Both are unique in their own way, and both will leave a lasting impression.
© 2010 Eric Standridge