Rees Finds Its 'Niche' in Broadcast Architecture / Involved in 100 Projects in Past 10 Years

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build his firm, Rees Associates Inc. of Oklahoma City, when he happened upon a new specialty - broadcast architecture.

In the last 10 years, Rees Associates has been involved in more than 100 broadcast-related projects in the U.S., including designing Chicago's 260,000-square-foot NBC Center, which is under construction, and two major projects abroad.

Today, Rees Associates claims broadcast architecture as a niche all its own, since the Oklahoma City firm commands 95 percent of all business in the area, said Walter Gregg, vice president and partner of the firm.

As a result, Rees Associates has been called the "leading broadcast architecture firm in the world" by Frank Roberts, president of New York Times Broadcasting Co. Since Rees Associates had executed design work and supervised constuction on two affiliate stations of Times Broadcasting, Roberts was in a position to know.

It all started quite by accident, Gregg said. In 1978, KOCO-TV, Channel 5, which is the Oklahoma City affiliate of the American Broadcasting Corp., decided their station was obsolete and needed to be replaced.

So they hired architect Frank Rees and his company to design a $5 million, 32,000-square-foot facility that was completed in 1980. That design brought KOCO-TV the Best International Station award for 1980 by Broadcast Management/Engineering Magazine.

The award was won though the only exposure of Rees to broadcasting had come in the late 1960s, when he worked summers selling ad spots for a television station to put himself through the University of Oklahoma.

However, the award ended the need for Rees to hunt for business in that speciality. Shortly after the KOCO-TV project was finished, he was hired to do a "fast track" project for KAUT-TV, Channel 43, which was just getting started in Oklahoma City as a new independent station.

KAUT-TV was then owned by Gene Autry, former western movie star, and he wanted a building that could be fully operational within nine months.

For that effort, the Rees-designed building was acclaimed "international runner-up" for best broadcasting station of 1982 by Broadcast anagement Engineering Magazine.

From that point, things mushroomed. Some broadcast facilities that had been built during the 1950s could no longer accomodate "newer, more sophisticated" systems and equipment that were coming on line, said Gregg. With the advent of new technology, new broadcast facilities began to dot the countryside.

"The television networks and their affiliates were being forced to adapt to technological changes in order to remain competitive," Gregg said. "It's much like the consumer market. Television news cameras were getting much smaller and there was a trend toward computerization."

However, keeping pace with technological advancements was not the only challenge facing broadcasting companies in their quest of capturing the all-important ratings.

Staying ahead of the game also involved increasing their news departments, because audiences demanded it. And that meant buying not only new equipment, but more of it. …