Science Museum Oklahoma

Project Completed:  2016

Location: 2100 N.E. 52nd St.

Oklahoma City, OK 73111

Project Type: Education & Government

Square Footage: 36,000 SF interior + existing 300,000 SF exterior + parking areas

Photographer: Gray City Studios

A New Vision:  Design for a Destination

A venerable Oklahoma City institution — known for a generation as the Omniplex – Science Museum Oklahoma was due for an upgrade. With the unveiling of a two-year, multimillion-dollar renovation by Rand Elliott Architects, SMO went from nearly shuttering in the early 2000s to recording its biggest attendance days in its history.

Today it’s a vibrant visitor attraction — the state’s only hands-on science museum and one of the nation’s largest — was in March 2024 named by Newsweek one of the Top Three Science Museums in the country (from a Top 10, chosen from a panel of experts).

Since its 1978 opening, the museum had always been big, and busy. 

Founder/philanthropist John Kirkpatrick wanted to welcome visitors with a boggling array of exhibits, as the name Omniplex suggests. But its exterior was drab and the entrance was hidden at one far end of the behemoth building.

Read the Newsweek article.

Science Museum Oklahoma
Redefining the Visitor Experience

The attraction opened in 1978 as Omniplex, its purpose to encourage children and adults to explore the wonder and relevance of science. But its hulking concrete exterior was hard and uninviting.

The challenge for Rand Elliott Architects was to create a dynamic and welcoming building presence – one better aligned with the museum’s popularity and the discoveries awaiting inside.

Given the proximity of its neighbor, the Oklahoma City Zoo, the Science Museum also faced fundamental issues of poor visibility, confusion, and poor traffic flow in and out of a vast parking lot.

For Vehicles &Visitors: Branded Wayfinding

To establish better separation from the zoo and assert its own identity, Rand Elliott Architects first created two branded museum parking entrances/exits, locating them farther west of the zoo. The main building entrance was also moved far west of the building’s original entrance at an far corner. Entering closer to its center, the attraction asserts its true girth, commanding the whole building.

Science Museum Oklahoma Exterior Improvements

Rand Elliott Architects’ redesign of Science Museum Oklahoma included branded traffic entrances, a new parking lot with better flow and buses directed to their own streetside lot and covered student drop-off. The large sculpture, blue walkway canopy, and landscaping energized the new entrance and christened a new era.

The Enhanced Building Exterior

Adding Life to a Vast Expanse of Concrete

To capture and reflect the dramatic changes in Oklahoma’s light and sky, Rand Elliott Architects introduced elegant, stainless-steel fins to the concrete building skin. The fins glint and gleam, adding energy and appeal to the otherwise hard tilt-up concrete building exterior. The fins are placed in a gradient pattern from north to south, adding interest. A 30’-wide band of enhanced landscaping softens the façade.

Science Museum Oklahoma Fin Detail
A Commanding Arrival Experience

Rand Elliott Architects’ goal for Science Museum Oklahoma was to create a memorable approach and expansive entrance to draw guests to the new entry location. The covered pedestrian walkway creates a formal, weather-protected approach that heightens the museum presence. Stretching from the bus drop-off to the door, a polycarbonate canopy is laminated with blue film that features a circular pattern and playfully casts a blue shadow onto the walkway as charmed children and adults pass underneath.

Science Museum Oklahoma Entry at sunset
Science Museum Oklahoma Canopy
Science Museum Oklahoma Blue Canopy
New Lobby Experience

From Dark and Obscure to Grand or Volume + Wood + Natural light

A mid-section of the huge Science Museum building was carved out to create a dramatic, two-story lobby – a voluminous, light-filled atrium courtesy of a tall wall of north-facing insulated glass and a roof skylight. A new wood structure inserted into the precast concrete interior softens and brings warmth. Vertical wood inserts deliver sun protection and texture to the space.

The two-story lobby showcases rotating installations, giving visitors the “wow factor” of a second-floor, birds eye perspective on the ever-changing entrance experience.

The admissions booth adjacent to the lobby was upgraded with natural wood and sunlight that now floods the lobby.

BEFORE: Secondary entry turned main entry and lobby prior to renovation

Science Museum Oklahoma New Lobby
Science Museum Oklahoma Lobby Detail
Exhibit Master Planning and Infrastructure; Curio City

Working closely with the project exhibit consultant, ROTO, Rand Elliott Architects coordinated renovations at Science Museum Oklahoma, adding master planning and infrastructure for a new children’s exhibit: CurioCity. The 21,000 SF “village” features eight whimsical neighborhoods where familiar meets the fanciful as children get a taste of the wonderful world of science. Each neighborhood has its own unique personality that allows visitors the opportunity to explore a scientific concept, using interactive devices and unusual settings to encourage learning through play.

Rand Elliott Architects’ master planning and infrastructure work for the exhibit included:
• Upgrading all finishes
• LED Lighting upgrades
• New mechanical systems
• Structure modifications for Odd-A-See Climbing Structure, including removing a second-floor bay for a double-height space.
• Mechanical, plumbing and water calculations and infrastructure for a water exhibit.

Science Museum Oklahoma - Curio city
Project Info

Client: Science Museum Oklahoma 

Scope: Parking Improvements / 300,000 SF Exterior Improvements / 36,000 SF Interior Improvements

Services: Architectural Design, Interiors

Completion: 2016

  • 2021 AIA Oklahoma Citation Award

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