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What is the most historic building in Oklahoma City?
A Very Nice Mention of OKC Second Time Around PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 29 November 2008 00:37

From the November issue of Distinctly Oklahoma:

Chip Minty
Jon Pickard is not the type who spends time chasing autographs. But, while riding down an elevator with Oklahoma City newspaper reporters Steve Lackmeyer and Jack Money last summer, he couldn’t resist the opportunity.
Sample ImageThe architect had just spent the morning in front of a packed auditorium unveiling his firm’s design of Devon Energy’s new skyscraper. Standing in the lobby of the downtown library, he pulled a tattered copy of OKC Second Time Around from his bag. The pages were worn and littered with yellow Post-It notes.
He asked Lackmeyer and Money to write a note inside. The recently published book is about the last 50 years of downtown Oklahoma City’s history, a rare and authoritative source most cities don’t have. To the designer from New Haven, Conn., finding an up-to-date book about Oklahoma City’s development was like discovering gold.
“It was an unbelievable reference. I went through that book a number of times. It’s all dog-eared,” said Pickard, principal of the firm Pickard Chilton.

To Pickard, the book had been a window through which he discovered the city. Some of it was ugly, some exiting. It described the years of urban renewal and all of its unfulfilled intentions. Pickard learned about the city’s Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS), and he read about more than $2 billion in Sample Imageprivate investment that came as a result. He saw energy; he saw renewed confidence and new commitment.
In 2008, Devon Energy commissioned Pickard and his partner, Bill Chilton, to design the company’s new corporate headquarters. Devon had outgrown its current downtown Oklahoma City home several years ago and its employees have been spilling into adjacent buildings ever since.
The company occupies 15 floors in the Devon Building at 20 N. Broadway, and it leases about half the floors in the towering Chase building across the street. With more than 1,500 employees and contractors downtown, Devon has also claimed floors in Oklahoma Tower, Corporate Tower and the First National Building.
Pickard and Chilton passed a major milestone in August when the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority approved plans to break ground on the project next year and complete construction in 2012. Pickard’s presentation to the authority at the Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library captivated an auditorium full of civic leaders, government officials and news media.
Pickard presented details of the $750 million building’s state-of-the-art design and its environmental eSample Imagefficiencies. He highlighted the building’s enormous capacity to serve all of Devon’s employees, with plenty of room for continued growth.
Devon’s new corporate headquarters building would accommodate all of Devon’s needs and represent a major step forward in the company’s development. But Devon Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Larry Nichols did not stop there. He also wanted the building to be iconic in stature. He wanted it to be a building Devon employees and the entire city would be proud of. The Oklahoma City native wanted a building that would embrace the community and further the city’s ongoing renaissance.
“I didn’t care about how tall it was,” Nichols said. “Someone is always going to come along and build one taller. What I did want was a building that would be timeless.”
He envisioned a building that would be vibrant, dynamic and outward looking. He wanted a building that would weave itself into the fabric of the existing downtown.
That is why the design features more public access points than any other building in the state. That is also why Nichols opposed including a cafeteria for employees. He wanted Devon’s workforce to leave the office for lunch, enjoy downtown and patronize its Sample Imagerestaurants.
“We want this building to energize downtown, not suck the life out of it,” he said.
For Nichols, the project represents an opportunity to give back to the city, promote its continuing success and enrich the lives of Devon employees and their neighbors.
It did not take long for Pickard to recognize that working with Nichols on the project was going to be an extraordinary experience.
Pickard said he has worked with princes, prime ministers, government officials and chief executives from around the world. In his 35-year career, he has never seen a top leader so engaged.
“Most CEOs will delegate, but Larry came and participated in the meetings that lasted seven, eight or nine hours every two weeks,” Pickard said. “Devon is blessed to have that type of leader. Larry is the most inspiring individual I have ever worked with. He motivates you to give the best that you have.”
“We spent as much time talking about how the building would cater to the community as we did the employees,” he said.
These were the kinds of conversations that attracted Pickard to the project from the beginning. It is important to design a building that will facilitate efficiency and effectiveness, but what really distinguishes a building is how it fits within the framework of its surroundings. Pickard’s firm has a portfolio of skyscrapers custom designed to fit in with the local culture, tastes and architecture. A design that fits in DSample Imageubai may not make sense in Oklahoma City.
Before work began, Nichols and the design team traveled to other cities to gather architectural images and concepts that could fit into the Oklahoma City project. Those benchmarking trips provided a rich foundation of ideas.
 Most important for Pickard and Chilton, however, were the trips they took to Oklahoma City, where they spent hours walking the sidewalks of downtown, studying the architecture and touring the buildings.
The images they gathered from those walks and the familiarity they developed from studying Oklahoma City’s history helped them understand and capture the spirit of downtown. Pickard points out small features in the 925-foot Devon building’s design that reflect Oklahoma City’s existing architecture. The triangular crown at the top of the First National Center is reflected in the Devon building, which also features a triangular shape.
A structure the size of the Devon building could easily become a barrier that discourages development to one side. That is why the designer’s plan does not include a front or a back door, but will have 26 distinct sides on the tower’s reflective glass surface. Much like a round building, it will be hard to distinguish a directional orientation. It will embrace the skyline to the northeast just as it will complement Stage Center and the arts district to the west. Meanwhile, it will overlook the Myriad Gardens, and anchor the northern end of the planned Core to Shore connecting downtown to the Oklahoma River.
The building’s six-story glass rotunda will be its hub. Employees will walk through the garden atmosphere several times a day as they move between the tower, the parking garage and the adjacent 400,000-square-foot “podium” structure. The building’s ground floor will have more than 80,000 square feet of public area with restaurants and shops.
Outside the rotunda’s south door will be a park where two and a half acres of trees, landscaping, small ponds and waterfalls will surround a large open space and a covered plaza. The area will create a green space where employees and the public can enjoy lunch, an outdoor concert or other events.
The Devon development’s influence on downtown will reach beyond its borders at Sheridan and Hudson avenues.
The city of Oklahoma City is considering a proposed Tax Incremental Finance District, which would designate property taxes generated by the 1.9-million-square-foot building. Millions of dollars would be earmarked for the surrounding area, such as enhancements at the Myriad Gardens.
A Myriad Gardens renovation plan might include amenities such as a restaurant, an ice skating rink, a dog park, a playground and water features. Street enhancements could include construction of wider sidewalks, median landscaping and narrowing of streets to slow Sample Imagetraffic for pedestrians.
“One of the exciting things about this project is the energy that has gone into making it part of the community,” Pickard said. “I don’t know what impact this building is going to have on Oklahoma City, but I know it is going to be significant.”
There are several examples where iconic skyscrapers have reinvigorated cities. It happened in Charlotte, N.C, with the Bank of America building, which towers 872 feet. It happened in Omaha, Nebraska, with the 633-foot-tall One First National Center, and it happened in Des Moines, Iowa, with The Principle Building, which stands 630 feet.
Pickard, an Iowa native, said Oklahoma City reminds him of Des Moines, where The Principle Building transformed the skyline in 1991.
“That building changed the way the city saw itself, and this building is going to do the same thing in Oklahoma City,” Pickard said.
“This building is not just another skyscraper. It’s a symbol of great accomplishment in Oklahoma and in the Western United States. It’s profound,” Pickard said. “There is something very special and precious happening here that I have never seen before in my career, and I may not see again.”