Standing Bear Museum and Education Center
Ponca City, Oklahoma
Capitalizing on the museum’s beautiful Standing Bear Park site, KKT designed this facility with circular motifs representing equality, the unbroken protection of family, and spiritual resonances from dance and drum circles. The curve of the walls provides a softness that helps merge the building with its surroundings. The six area Nations including Osage, Pawnee, Otoe-Missouria, Kaw, Tonkawa, and Ponca have display spaces in the circular central great room, symbolizing the unity of native peoples. The curved exterior also blends the building into the landscape.
In collaboration with tribal leaders, KKT designed the entry with features representing the four sacred elements: earth (flagstone paving), water (a fountain), air (a skylight), and fire (a fireplace). Windows are sized and located to merge the outside landscaping into the building, celebrating the formerly nomadic plains tribes’ ties to the land. The windows’ strategic placements frame views of the Chief Standing Bear statue, the dance arbor, and other culturally-significant features of the park. The only opaque surface at the entry are floating feather door-handles, sculpted by the Standing Bear statue artist, Oreland C. Joe.
In addition to providing museum and archive-safe storage for important cultural artifacts, the facility supports the music, storytelling, and oral transmission of Native American traditions through the interactive classroom as well as events and activities in the central multi-purpose room. A 2,000 SF exhibit hall displays the Ponca Tribe’s permanent collection.