A venerable Oklahoma City institution, Science Museum Oklahoma is the state’s only hands-on science museum and one of the largest science museums in the nation. With the unveiling of a two-year, multi-million dollar renovation, SMO went from nearly shuttering in the early 2000s to recording its biggest days of attendance in its history.
The renovation, which included a new 21,000 SF children’s museum, improved park entrance and parking plan, upgraded building skin, entry, lobby and gift shop, was honored in the 2021 AIA Oklahoma Design Excellence Awards with a Citation Award for Commercial Architecture.
“(Museum founder) John Kirkpatrick had a great vision for the Science Museum. He wanted a place where families could come and learn about science and the arts, and it would be a shame to lose that. So, we set out to figure it out. Made a lot of changes. Virtually everything changed because it had to.”
– Sherry Marshall, President and CEO –
Science Museum Oklahoma
Sharing parking with its neighbor the Oklahoma City Zoo, the parking experience and entry sequence at SMO needed a major upgrade. New branded parking entrances improve traffic flow to both sites and the relocated SMO building entry reduces congestion between crowds.
The pedestrian spine creates a formal entry approach and protected pedestrian space for patrons visiting the museum. Parking spaces were widened and oriented perpendicular to the building allowing guests with small children an easier loading/unloading experience.
The circular drop-off/pick-up drive offers an added convenience and helps to further manage traffic flow during heavy attendance times. Landscaping within the lot was designed as bioswales to capture and control stormwater runoff and works to soften the lot surface area.
Built in 1978, the existing double “t” tilt-up concrete structure was hard and uninviting. Our challenge for the building exterior was to bring a more dynamic presence to the building – one better aligned with the museum’s mission and the discoveries waiting to be found inside.
Stainless steel caps were added to existing building ribs, capturing and reflecting the dramatic changes in light and sky and introducing a dynamic energy to the building exterior. A 30’ wide band of enhanced landscaping softens the façade on the north.
Thirty-foot steel columns and SMO branding create a clearly identifiable building entrance, directing guests to the relocated entry and creating a memorable approach experience. A polycarbonate canopy laminated with blue film stretches from bus drop off to the entry doors. The clear circular pattern within the lamination is activated by the sun and casts a playful shadow onto the walkway.
The new public lobby was transformed from an existing single-story space into a voluminous light filled two-story space with a new roof skylight and expansive north facing glass. The new wood structure inserted into the existing precast concrete building softens and brings warmth to the space. Insulated glass on the north wall includes vertical wood inserts for sun protection and to add texture to the space.
Working closely with the project exhibit consultant, renovations at Science Museum Oklahoma included master planning and infrastructure for the new children’s exhibit, Curio City, a 21,000 SF village featuring eight whimsical neighborhoods where children get a taste of the wonderful world of science.