FSB’s creative reworking of iconic downtown Oklahoma City school transports law school students back to their future.
Erected in 1910 as Oklahoma High School — the only high school in Oklahoma City at that time — this majestic, gothic-style stone building was a source of great civic pride. Designed by renowned early-day Oklahoma architect Solomon Layton, the building had many cutting-edge features for its day and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. Decades later, in 2014, Oklahoma City University officials approached FSB about the feasibility of turning the run-down building into the new home for its School of Law. The majestic outward appearance strongly appealed to the school’s officials who envisioned it as a stately and suitable home for their top-tier law school.
The challenges were many. As a nationally designated historic facility, care had to be taken to preserve its integrity. No original blueprints existed, but plans were found in a book written about Oklahoma’s historical buildings. The FSB team held multiple information-gathering charrettes with university officials, deans, professors, students and vendors. Our staff was also required to carefully document and photograph all historic elements within the building and the condition of each, working with the federal government and the Oklahoma Historical Society’s State Historic Preservation Office.
To fit all the required elements into the building required a great deal of creativity. The Great Hall serves multiple functions as a reception hall, student lounge and overflow library/study area. In addition to faculty offices, space was converted to accommodate admissions, career services, international programs, law review and student bar association needs. Wi-Fi, hard connections and other technology were added to create state-of-the-art “smart” classrooms. A courtroom, complete with judges’ chambers, provides the appropriate environment for both mock and real trials.
Interior surfaces throughout the building were repaired, including floors and restoration of intricate plasterwork on the balcony. The building’s stone exterior, with its distinctive arched entryways, was left largely intact, although energy-efficient windows were added while satisfying historic preservation guidelines. All MEP systems throughout the building were upgraded to meet current codes, improve energy efficiency and provide adequate ventilation and fire protection throughout.
A special element of this project involved the restoration of two exquisite Romanesque murals, located at the building’s east entrance. The murals are among only five in existence created by Olinka Hrdy, Oklahoma’s first modern artist. To preserve this additional bit of history, the murals were carefully removed, restored and then returned to their original locations once the building was complete.
Since moving into the school in December of 2014, OCU School of Law officials report a major spike in student enrollment, and they credit the bulk of this increase to the attractiveness of the newly renovated building.