Category Archives: Design

Design Discovery Labs

WPress GraphicCreating a collaborative environment amongst stakeholders is a key strategy to designing a new building or redefining existing spaces. FSB has developed a specialized design workshop process – FSB Design Discovery Lab – that creates a partnership between an owner and the design team resulting in highly successful projects.

FSB Design Discovery Lab is a collective, partnering exercise, between all stakeholders and the design team. These forums IMG_1094are work sessions that explore facility uses, defines user needs and experiences, and ultimately outline a strategic design direction for the space.

The Discovery Lab promotes critical thinking, communication, creative problem solving and collaboration. Intersecting thoughts and ideas, from varying stakeholder points of view, provides opportunities to assess, engage, agree or disagree on important project issues – which is essential to significantly strengthening final project outcomes.

FSB’s Discovery Labs enable the entire team – stakeholders and designers – to:

Share knowledge

  • New and innovative thinking will remain unrealized unless there are opportunities to shape ideas by involving all key players.

Create community

  • Providing an open forum to talk about stakeholder roles in a project opens doors to forming partnerships – that may not have existed – and promotes collaboration beyond the workshop.

Facilitate decision-making

  • An essential first step in successfully designing a Fred_VWSnew space is to establish expectations, define purpose and outline the process that will be needed to meet the goals. Establishing common ground is key to encouraging stakeholders to work together and, in the end, reach consensus.

FSB’s signature approach to defining a client’s needs, through a collaborative Discovery Lab environment, was recently demonstrated on the Oklahoma State Capitol Building Interior Restoration Project. As part of this project, FSB and Capitol Design Team are redefining the visitor experience. Fred Schmidt, FSB principal and project leader, recently facilitated a Discovery Lab that provided the design framework for this aspect of this highly visible and historically significant project.

Held in FSB’s newly designed Team Lab space, this five hour, collaboration session included Capitol Restoration Committee members, key stakeholders, art historians, collection curators, historical preservationists and representatives from the design-build team.

The Discovery Lab focused on Brainstorming and Creative Thinking for four main topics:

1. The New Context of the Capitol’s Visitors Level
Current Visitor Experience

  • Pros: what’s working well with the current experience?New Exp Diagram
  • Cons: what’s not working as well?

2. If These Walls Could Talk

  • What do you want the architecture to say to the visitor?
  • What do you want the initial thoughts of the visitor to be?
  • What is the one thing you would like a visitor to remember at the conclusion of their visit?

 3. Big Picture Ideas – Defining Form and Function

  •  What are the performance requirements that will Visitor Exp - Context trimshape the building design?
  • What are the issues that will affect building shape?

4. Telling a Story

  • What is the symbolism that creates a connection?
  • What is important to creating a progression of experiences?
  • How can we connect the visitor to the space being Big Ideas‘theirs’?
    • This is your state
    • This is your state house
    • This is your place of government
    • This is your state’s story
  • How can we demonstrate that this is where Oklahoma Government history is made?
  • Who do we want to showcase: famous men, famous women?

Upon completion of the Design Lab, all participants emerged with a clear vision of the goals and objectives for the new visitor center. A detailed storyline to guide the desired visitor experience was established, providing the design team with the needed direction to pursue creative architectural solutions.

The FSB Design Discovery Lab allows owners to:

  • participate in a collaborative workshop setting
  • visually ‘see’ and represent the project prior to formal design
  • be involved in creating their own spaces in collaboration with the design team
  • obtain buy-in to both the project and business objectives
  • express their experiences – increased understanding and empathy from the design team
  • reduce stakeholder conflicts and factions working in silos
  • make better strategic decisions and reach stakeholder consensus and commitment
  • define and support synergies in inter-disciplinary strategies
  • create cross-functional team development, understanding and learning
  • generate enthusiasm and positive energy towards the project

If you are interested in learning more about how the Design Discovery Lab experience can benefit your project or want to learn more about the Oklahoma State Capitol Building Interior Restoration Project, visit us at or contact Fred Schmidt at 405.840.2931.


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Demystifying Architectural Character – what style is this?


Test your skill at guessing the meaning of the architectural elements shown at the end of the post.

Our project, the OCU School of law, is being retrofitted into an historic structure built in 1909. It was originally designed as the first high school in Oklahoma City and was named Oklahoma High School. It was designed by Solomon Andrew Layton during a period of architecture that was infatuated with classical revivalism. Popular Classic styles for replication included Greek, roman, gothic and renaissance (mainly Italian). For some reason bringing back Romanesque never caught on. Continue reading


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Items of Engineering Interest

IMG_2486 - Copy

Attic Space in OCU School of Law Houses Existing AHU’s

I was recently the luncheon speaker for the Engineers Club of Oklahoma City (ECOC). There was interest in the OCU School of Law a current FSB project under construction. There has been a series of recent press on the project lending to it being a current topic of interest. The presentation I had readily available was from a recent presentation at the State Historic Preservation Conference. The presentation focused on the history of the building going back to its original construction as Oklahoma High School in 1909. I decided I needed to incorporate something about the engineering systems considering my audience. Continue reading

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The Grand Hall

Grand Hall 2

As a part of the programmed space and needs for the OCU School of Law, a large multipurpose space that gives the school the flexibility to add a broader venue of activities was desired. To gain maximum value for every square foot, this space could perform many functions. On a day to day basis, the grand space would be used as the living room of the school and be a part of first impression for visitors and guests that is a part of creating the intangible air of greatness for the law school. In addition to being the living room, it provides the function of being a great reading room for the library. The space will have a variety of seating and open collaborative areas that will allow it to satisfy both of these functions concurrently. Continue reading

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Design Is A Juggling Act

 Library Perspective

Keeping the project design on track is a challenge. Several special efforts come to mind. The challenge of meeting the owner’s expectations for the look and feel of the project is one that readily pops up after all this is the visible part of the project that everyone sees. Descriptions of look and feel are often hard to get your arms around: Continue reading

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Saving History – one piece at a time

 Main E Entry-1

As a part of the construction documents for the conversion of the American Farmers and Ranchers Insurance Company building (latest occupants with previous occupants being One Bell Central and Central High School) into the OCU School of Law, FSB laid out specific instructions for saving the history of Oklahoma High School through the preservation of the remaining pieces historic fabric inside the facility. At the time of the original construction in 1910 the workmen were true craftsmen and artisans at their respective trades. In particular, the pieces of history remaining in the building were primarily the work of tile setters and plasterers. The workmanship is incredible and approaches a level of quality of artwork. Continue reading

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History and the Threads of Its Fabric

The building which is the centerpiece of our project is on the National Register of Historic Places. Doing work on a historic building brings into play a protocol of respect for the structure. The National Park Service who oversees the preservation of these historic structures has a healthy set of guidelines for taking care of and preserving historic places. These guidelines set forth an approach to responsible care which is then up to the property owner to put into play although the guidelines are not actively enforced. Continue reading

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A New Outfit – trying it on for size

Central HIgh School

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.

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Divergent View 2


The Forgotten Competition

I was recently driving down Lindsay Street in Norman when I my eyes landed upon a structure that invoked a déjà vu moment. I thought to myself “could this be the product of a distant design competition?”

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Assessing the Fabric

Turrits The building we are looking at for a test fit for the OCU School of Law is currently occupied by the American Farmers and Ranchers Mutual Insurance Company (AFR). They are the latest in of a string of occupants going back to the original use as a high school for Oklahoma City when it was first occupied in 1910. This wasn’t the first time this building was being given consideration for the School of Law. The AFR building was a runner-up to the Fred Jones Manufacturing Plant when it was being considered for a downtown home.

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