Capitol solution

What does one do when a
remodeling project excavates hidden treasures? Architecturally speaking,
that’s what happened recently during renovations of Capitol Hill High
School, 500 SW 36, by MA+ Architecture. The Oklahoma City-based firm was
remodeling the educational institution’s historic auditorium.

“We
were getting the Sheetrock out and found that years ago, some
architectural sculpturing had been covered up,” says Paul Meyer, MA+
Architecture principal. “We took the Sheetrock out and disclosed a stage
and plaster sculpturing.”

To determine its origin and decide next steps, the team brought MAPS officials and CHS alumni to the auditorium.

“The alumni remembered it, because most of them were there in the ’50s before it was covered up,” says Meyer.

Fortunately,
MAPS officials appreciated the historical significance of the find and
came up with the additional monies necessary to preserve those aspects
of the auditorium.

LASTING
LEGACY

Capitol Hill is a legacy school, built in 1928 as the primary
school serving students in south OKC, so its remodeling is “long
overdue,” according to Oklahoma City Public Schools board member and former educator Ron Millican.

“It
was a cornerstone school until Southeast was built in 1950 and started
taking graduation numbers from them,” Millican says. “We as a school
system have let the facilities down to where they needed the face-lift.
We’re bringing it back, and it’s marvelous. They deserve it.”

Said upgrades includes
a new stadium, creating an eight-lane track to bring it up to
standards; an all-purpose field; new bleachers; and a new press box.

“They’re
trying to salvage most, if not all, of the wall that goes around the
stadium since it, too, has historical value,” he says, noting it was a
Works Progress Administration project in the 1930s, as part of President
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Millican sees himself in the faces of the students who attend today.

“I
grew up in Southeast Oklahoma City, and I can go by my old house. Those
kids are the same as we were,” he says. “Their parents are common
laborers, just like my dad was. They deserve a good facility and a good
education.”

He
says the pride the students feel in the remodel is palpable, and the
renovated school will be good for the community as a whole.

ART + ENGINEERING

Whether it’s a remodel or a new facility, Meyer says the key to educational architecture is listening.

“We
learn what the owner’s aspirations are and get all that down in written
program,” Meyer says. “Whether it’s a church or school, within that
program, you will see the design solution.”

Lightning bolt or methodical brainstorming? Meyer says it’s different each time.

“Sometimes,
it is brainstorming, and sometimes, it’s a series of meetings, and
sometimes it’s like Mustang High School,” he said, recalling a huge
project that connected several different building and added more than
100,000 square feet. “I saw the solution instantly and it changed very
little from that first inspiration. Sometimes, you look at it and say,
‘Wow! Where did that come from?’ Architecture is such a combination of
engineering and art. I’m not sure which one to give the most weight to.”

Engineering will be a new focus for Capitol Hill High School, with the addition of an engineering academy in the next few years.

The
seasoned educational architect says that while experience benefits each
project, no two educational institutions approach a remodel in the same
way.

“They all
have different goals. There’s not a consensus on an established way to
put together a school,” says Meyer. For example, one school might prefer
administration to office together, while another school might have vice
principals scattered throughout the complex.

MA+’s
other distinguished educational architectural clients include Bishop
McGuiness Catholic High School, Southwestern Oklahoma State University
in Weatherford and the University of Oklahoma in Norman.

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