Rand Elliott adds a delicate shell to the banks of a reinvented river for the new Chesapeake boathouse in a renewed downtown Oklahoma City
Architects & Firms
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Rand Elliott, FAIA, drives his white Porsche 911 around Oklahoma City, showing you his major projects, shifting gears, and sweeping through the sprawling landscape so quickly, authoritatively, you begin to understand how important the new Chesapeake Boathouse is to the career of this consummate Oklahoma architect.
But you first have to ask yourself: What is a boathouse doing in O-K City and, for that matter, who builds boathouses in this day and age? It sounds like some kind of country club folly, a euphemism for a garden shed, or an aluminum-sided marina on the banks of a red dirt reservoir, but rather it turns out to be exactly what you wouldn’t expect in Oklahoma: one of the best facilities for competitive sculling in the country. The nonprofit Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation asked Elliott to design the building on the banks of the Oklahoma River to accommodate an expanding program—the Oklahoma Association for Rowing counts 325 members and growing, while three local universities have implemented programs. The 14,578-square-foot boathouse provides these athletes and hobbyists with meeting space, offices, fitness facilities, and storage for nearly 100 racing shells—sleek, carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic boats in a variety of colors and lengths.
Like most athletes in America, rowers are obsessed with speed. Custom manufacturers optimize the shells like those stored at the Chesapeake Boathouse to within fractions of an inch. An elite single-person racing shell may measure 30 feet long, less than 24 inches wide, and weigh only 30 pounds. They slice through the water so easily, you forget the rower must maintain precise balance to keep the silvery thread of a vehicle from capsizing. Elliott paid close attention to these sorts of details when he began design. Throughout his more than 30 years of practice in the “City,” as everyone in Oklahoma calls it, he has consistently said he begins a project by looking at the culture prevailing at its inception, while also attempting a reading of the intangible qualities conveyed by the site’s physical context. Many architects say this, but not many architects are Rand Elliott.
The Chesapeake Boathouse has little in common with the traditions called to mind by Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River rowers forever in midstroke in a Thomas Eakins canvas. Rather, Elliott addresses the tricky architectural issue of origin head-on: through a deft evocation of our modern fascination with sport and speed, mingled with Oklahoma City’s very real, shared civic desire for reinvention, in lock-step with the city’s larger ambitions to shed its Dust Bowl image.
Structural: KFC EngineeringMEP: PSA Consulting Engineers
Lighting: Elliott + Associates Architects / Smith Lighting
Other: Audio Visual – Rob Rogers, Audio/Video Designs, Inc.
CAD System, Project Management, Or Other Software Used:
Polycarbonate: Extech Exterior Technologies Inc.- Series 3100 Standing Seam Panel System
EIFS, ACM, or other: EIFS Soffit - DryVit
Custom Wood Windows:
Glass: Associated Glass: Kawneer
Insulated-panel or plastic glazing: See above
Fabrication: Associated Glass
Entrances: Associated Glass - Kawneer
Metal doors: Kawneer Storefront
Security devices: PSI (Peripheral Systems, Inc.)
Paints and stains: Sherwin Williams
Plastic laminate: Formica
Special surfacing: Stainless counters by Keys Stainless and Woodcrafters
Floor and wall tile (cite where used): Showers – Dal-Tile
Resilient flooring: Concrete stain
Other: Trex Composite Decking (exterior) Bomanite
Chairs: Umbra OH Chair
Tables: Vecta – Ballet Table
Fixtures: Lithonia, Lancet, Hydrell, Paramount & Sportlight
Task lighting: Lithonia
Sprinkler Contractor: Control Fire
Electrical Contractor: Womack Electric
Plumbing Contractor: Mallet Plumbing
Fabricators for custom furniture:
Boatracks: Focus Rack Systems
Perforated metal panels: McNichols
Window covering: Interior Designers Supply - Lutron & Vimco
Boat Docks: Zeiss Manufacturing and Connect a Dock
Boat Stage Wall: Dalmarc Signs, Smith & Pickel Construction