Sonic Center of the Universe.

Sonic Center of the Universe

Field review by the editors.

Tulsa, Oklahoma

In the 1980s Tulsa's old Boston Street Bridge was badly damaged in a fire. It was rebuilt as a pedestrian walkway, complete with cement planters and (later) concrete terrorist barriers on either end. A swirly pattern of bricks was inset into the pavement at the bridge apex to hide an expansion joint.

Sonic Center of the Universe.

The small, well-worn disc of cement at the center of the swirl (sometimes mistaken for a manhole cover) naturally attracts walkers as a kind of bulls-eye. Whoever was responsible for the design did not realize that if someone stands on the disc and speaks, their voice becomes mysteriously amplified and distorted.

Armchair theorists have attempted to explain what causes the eerie reverb. Some blame mysterious cosmic forces. Others say it's just a "focusing anomaly" -- sound bouncing off the raised planters.

From the way the echoes sounded to us, we suspect the expansion joint is the key. When you stand in the center of the swirl and speak, your voice seeps through the crack, plummets down to the railroad tracks below, then bounces back up to your ears, making everything sound time-delayed and trippy.

(Note: our ears may also have accumulated permanent damage from too many long road trips listening to Hawkwind.)

Adding to the weirdness of the Sonic Center is a towering 72.5-foot-tall black metal artwork just south of the swirl. Titled "Artificial Cloud," it was erected by sculptor Robert Haozous in 1992. A close look at the sculpture reveals unsettling details, such as cut-outs of tumbling jet planes and human figures with missing limbs. The Tulsa Convention and Visitors Bureau calls the artwork, "a silent commentary on man's love of technology." Haozous has said that he expects the entire sculpture to eventually rust away.

Also see: Center of the Universe: Idaho | Center of the Universe: New Mexico

Sonic Center of the Universe

S. Boston Ave., Tulsa, OK
Downtown. In the center of the pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks between E. 1st and E. Archer Sts, accessible from S. Boston Ave.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

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In the region:
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