Elliott + Associates Architects tunnel revamp wins American Architecture Award
The Conncourse, named after local businessman Jack Conn, is a system of tunnels and bridges connecting 23 buildings in downtown Oklahoma City streching three quarters of a mile - one of the most extensive all-enclosed pedestrian systems in the country.
The first tunnel was constructed in 1931, crossing under Broadway Avenue and connecting the historic Skirvin Hotel to Skirvin Tower (now known as 101 Park Avenue). The majority of the Conncourse was built between 1972 and 1984.
Virtually untouched since the 1970s, the space had fallen into disrepair with duct- taped carpet and a brown-on-brown colour scheme. Through the leadership of Downtown OKC, Inc., the City of Oklahoma City and the Conncourse Association, a plan was developed whereby the “attached” building owners would assess themselves in order to make the improvements.
The purpose of this project is to improve the quality and public perception of the Conncourse. Changing the name to the Underground is one step in changing the perception. The combination of music, coloured light, understandable way-finding and historic themed galleries make moving from point A to B rhythmic, surprising and educational.
The Underground concept uses colour as a navigational tool for users. The security guards give directions by suggesting that to get from point A to point B, you simply follow the green light to the red light to the yellow light to reach your destination. Underground segments adopt “gallery” themes to make locations memorable, helping visitors navigate the space and provide visual interest along the way.
Photographs and art relating to the eight local history themes are hung on gallery walls, providing points of interest and opportunities to learn about Downtown Oklahoma City’s history. A ninth gallery, the Invited Artists Gallery, is for a changing quarterly art exhibit sponsored by Devon Energy.
The “Light Gallery,” one of 11 different colored lighting installations will provide users with the unique experience of walking through a permanent art installation. It uses blue and yellow light to create white light.
Elliott + Associates Architects’ Oklahoma Underground project won the practice one of three awards received at the Chicago Athenaeum 2008 American Architecture Awards.