Patrons who visit the Fassler Hall/Dust Bowl Lounge and Lanes complex in Oklahoma City, Okla., are immediately taken in by the roaring fire on the open deck and exposed precast concrete elements that make up the core infrastructure.
The design idea came from existing building types that are common to the Midtown district and adjacent Automobile Alley, says Jason Leach, project manager from Fitzsimmons Architects. “This area of town was developed in the mid-twentieth century, with a lot of board-formed concrete designs,” he says. “That’s what drew us to precast concrete for this project.”
The designers used precast concrete columns, beams, and tees that are similar to the board-formed tee structure found in the nearby Plaza Court building and other buildings in the district. They also incorporated areas of smooth and wire-cut brick in patterns that are only visible in certain sunlight as a subtle nod to the quilt-work pattern and finish variations that were the result of years of design upgrades to many local structures.
The precast concrete design also helped the team address operational goals, that included meeting strict schedules and budgets, and working within a tight worksite. “We were able to erect the superstructure much quicker than we could have with any other system,” Leach says. “Timing was critical to the owner.”
Along with being inspired by local architecture, the designers needed to find an innovative way to combine two unique entertainment concepts—a bar with an outdoor beer garden, and a lower-level indoor bowling alley that met the aesthetic and structural demands of the two operations. They addressed these dual needs by creating separate entrances with unique identities for each—the lower level accessed via 10th Street is devoted to the Dust Bowl, while the upper level accessed via Park Place is devoted to Fassler Hall.
In the beer garden and indoor bar they left the precast concrete tees partially exposed to reflect the utilitarian designs of the local architecture. The precast concrete tees are cantilevered and extend to different lengths over the beer garden creating an overhang in the seating area, Leach explains. The designers also employed upside-down double tees and used the flipped bases to create large combination benches and planters in the beer garden.
The innovative high-performance design was exactly what the owner wanted, and everyone was pleased with how it turned out. “This project showcases what can be done with structural grey precast concrete components, besides just providing the structural frame of the building,” says Sean Morris, Engineering Manager for Coreslab Structures. “There is enough intrinsic beauty and simplicity that an architectural statement can be accomplished as well, without the need for a façade to cover up the raw structural components of which the building is comprised.”