Oklahoma City Architecture Firm Has Designs on Education

Article excerpt

In 2006, MA+ Architecture of Oklahoma City starting working on renderings and a feasibility study for the renovation and expansion to Ellsworth Collings Hall at the University of Oklahoma.

After a successful fundraising campaign, OU approved a project to remodel the existing building opened in 1952 and for an addition and hired MA+ Architecture for the project.

Now with the project nearing completion - faculty and staff members are expected to move in this summer and classes are expected to begin this fall - MA+ Architecture has been involved with more than 250 educational architecture projects and the sector accounts for a large part of the firm's business.

"Education accounts for about 75 percent of our business," said Gary Armbruster, a principal and architect for the firm.

Education projects include architecture and additional services for other private and state universities and public and private elementary, middle and high schools.

"We've done elementary and high schools, universities, renovations and new designs, not to mention the many projects such as gymnasiums, residence halls and administration buildings and complete campus master plans," said Armbruster.

Collings Hall has been used for OU College of Education students, faculty and staff for more than 50 years and demand for space had increased to exceed available capacity. The building also was in need of upgrades because of current technology requirements and updates for current building codes, including the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"Bringing the facility up to OU's technology standards was challenging in a '50s-era building with low ceilings and required creativity in the layout of the rooms to accommodate the additional electrical and technology required," he said.

Future technology was a consideration in the design.

"Because technology is constantly changing we have to design schools with the future in mind and make the designs as flexible as possible," Armbruster said.

Collings Hall is an example of changing architecture for education facilities.

"This is a far cry from our first educational project, which was an expansion of the open classroom at the old New World School in Oklahoma City," said Paul Meyer, principal and architect for the firm.

Meyer founded Meyer Architects in 1968. In 2005, MA+ Architecture was formed, with Meyer and Armbruster as principals.

The original Collings Hall with 36,291 square feet is being enlarged to more than 53,000 square feet, which will bring all of the College of Education's programs into one building. The addition includes a classroom, multipurpose classroom, curriculum library, new faculty offices and new restrooms.

Challenges included designing the facility to accommodate current and anticipated technological requirements and still have the finished product blend with the rest of the campus. …