As we begin the due diligence effort for the OCU School of Law to investigate the feasibility of placing the law school within the old Bell building, now American Farmers and Ranchers Insurance Building (AFR), we engaged in the process of program validation to explore changes to the space needs that may have surfaced in the time span since the last quest to try a building on for size. Academic programs evolve and change over time and we needed to understand where things stood with the last version of the space needs.
Our investigation with the key leadership of the school of law flushed out a few modifications. There was a changed emphasis on some of the outreach programs, the classroom sizes and distribution had changed somewhat and the projection of the need for faculty offices had grown. There were other tweaks and refinements here and there with a net growth in the gross square footage desired.
With the space needs program reaffirmed, we continued with the latest test fit. The basic groupings of areas were reviewed and adjacencies revisited. The grouped areas were turned into blocks of space at which point we began to play a version of Tetris working to nest the blocks with each other and fitting them around fixed blocks of space like vertical circulation, restrooms and mechanical/electrical rooms.
Once we got the blocks to fit reasonably well on each floor plate, we began to introduce circulation patterns within the blocks and then introduce broader arterial circulation that connected the blocks with each other and in turn to the stairs, elevators, restrooms and support spaces. The floor plates evolved from the rough block diagrams to more recognizable plans. Alternate versions of the plans tested floor assignments and locations of departments on the plans and even adjacencies. The variations on plan layouts challenged and changed some of the ideas on space needs causing plans and space requirements to be refined in tandem.
Following this process of refinement, there was only one space requirement that could not be accommodated in the building. This was the desire to have a large tiered auditorium that would seat at least 250 students. The need for this large gathering space was only a few times throughout the school year and it was resolved that the gatherings could be accommodated in nearby spaces in downtown Oklahoma City. A secondary use as an appellate court space could be also accommodated in the variety of courtrooms in the downtown area as well as in the multi-purpose space of the Great Hall on the 3rd floor. With these alternative solutions for space resolved, a consensus was established that the building would indeed accommodate the projected needs of the OCU School of Law.
It was now “game on” as the other components of the due diligence effort fell into place giving the project a green light to move forward with design and construction documents.