Renovated Midtown Duplex Receives Modern Facelift

On Architecture by ROGER COFFEY, AIA

A NEW LOOK: The 1960s office building that sits at 1634 S. Boston Ave. was originally constructed as a duplex office structure before architect Brian Freese gave it a modern update almost 10 years ago. The building has a midwest modern style with Frank Lloyd Wright influences and contemporary Asian elements.

EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers

There is a modest building at 1634 S. Boston Ave., which at first glance is unassuming but on closer inspection beckons the passerby to enter. This building represents a massive remodel and is the work of architect Brian Freese.

Built in the 1960s, the building was a very utilitarian, 2,400-square-foot duplex office structure containing two office suites with a central party wall, shared restrooms and other common facilities.

When Freese bought it in 2006, he kept the perimeter walls, part of the east/west party wall and the roof structure. Everything else was delivered to a dumpster. Approximately 300 square feet were added to the rear of the building along with a small parking lot accommodating eight vehicles, which is easily accessible from a rear alley.

What replaced the original is pleasant eye candy. The style is what Freese calls regional midwest modern. Frank Lloyd Wright influences, and contemporary Asian elements are evident.

From the street in front, one enters a simple forecourt with a small water fountain and an open sunshade wood trellis roof. Unexpectedly, this part of the building’s footprint is U-shaped. The skin encasing the exterior walls is a screw fastened 5/16” fiberboard panel system, an unusual product manufactured in Denmark.

Walking through the building, it is obvious that attention was given to effective glass placement for natural light. Floors throughout are concrete with an epoxy coating. Ceilings are 10 feet tall. The millwork and eight-foot doors are cherry. Base molding and door casings are simple 1 × 2s. The receptionist desk is a finish carpenter’s tour de force and is also in cherry.

The heart of any architect’s office is the studio. The Freese studio extends the width of the building and is located at the rear. Four built-in work stations pinwheel around a support column (a remnant of the original party wall), which rises to a large skylight. The natural light provided makes only some additional illumination necessary. The Freese staff consists of six people. An additional two offices are leased to related professionals; though, in the future, those extra rooms can provide expansion space for the architectural staff.

In 2009, the building received an honor design award from the Eastern Oklahoma Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. When asked what he would have done differently with the building remodel, Freese mentions his problems with power activated water closets during power outages. He would also like to investigate passive solar design and a reuse of existing materials for a more green philosophy.

Brian Freese may have another chance someday. For architects, there is always another building on the horizon.

Updated 01-26-2018

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