Selser Schaefer Architects moves into renovated Tulsa Ice Co. building
BY ROBERT EVATT World Staff Writer
Friday, March 15, 2013
3/15/13 at 7:11 AM
When Janet Selser and Robert Schaefer first came across the long-abandoned Tulsa Ice Co. building, they saw opportunity everywhere - even when they saw random shoulder-high stacks of bowling alley lanes in a back corner.
"We were able to reuse the bowling alleys as table tops," Schaefer said.
Four and a half months and $3 million later, the former ice factory is the new headquarters of Selser Schaefer Architects, as well as one of the newest landmarks in the Kendall-Whittier district.
Thursday's grand opening also marked the 20th anniversary of the company.
Selser Schaefer, known for work such as the Tulsa Community College Center for Creativity, the new Hardesty Arts Center in the Brady District and the Tulsa Boys Home building - as well as plenty of other buildings in the area and across the nation - had been considering a move for quite some time.
The Tulsa Ice Co. building at 2002 E. Sixth St. gave the architectural firm a building with true character as well as an opportunity to join the rebirth of Kendall-Whittier.
"It's great to be part of the resurrection of the neighborhood," Schaefer said.
Ed Sharrer, executive director of Kendall-Whittier Main Street, said Selser Schaefer is a perfect complement to the neighborhood.
"The company fits with the district and complements the creativity of the other businesses here," he said. "It may help catch the eye of residents who might not have realized this district existed, and encourage them to move their companies here as well."
Selser estimated the building went up in the late 1920s, when Tulsa Ice Co. sold ice by the block for keeping food cool. After home refrigerators replaced the need for ice, the building was used as a foundry and an auto warehouse before becoming vacant in the 1980s.
Selser Schaefer used the structure of the building as a guide when putting in new features. For example, the open loading dock on the side became a patio that employees can use on breaks.
The main draw of the building is the 110-by-75-foot factory floor, which now serves as an open work area for most of the firm's 40 employees, including the two principals.
The form of the building was perfect for the way Selser Schaefer operates, Schaefer said.
"The success of what we do depends completely on collaboration," he said. "Now everyone can collaborate in one space."
The now-white room combines abundant natural lighting from the original window frames with lights along the walls that aim upward and reflect off the ceiling.
Echoing sound was originally a problem, but the firm didn't want to cover up the framework of the ceiling with a grid of acoustical tile. Instead, specially cut tiles were installed between the beams in some areas while the original ceiling was left exposed in others. Although the coverage isn't complete, the tiles still prevent echoing.
Rather than cubicals, employees work on long wooden tables surfaced by the former bowling alley lanes. Bookshelves containing reference material and two giant rulers blend decoration with function, Schaefer said.
"You can really get a sense for how big 60 feet is," he said.
The side office to the west that houses the marketing and business development team is smaller but similarly open and dominated by long tables. Because the company kept the original outer walls intact, it's easy to see where the original brick suddenly merges into the concrete blocks that were added to the building later in its life.
The same philosophy carries over to the waiting area, where the walls show the indentions of original features that were later removed, Selser said.
"This room used to have a second floor," she said. "You can still see the joists in the wall where the dividing floor was."
Though the renovation work is complete, Selser Schaefer is hoping to bring the exterior of the building even closer to its original state. The firm plans to carefully sand off the paint to try to find the original Tulsa Ice logo, and is holding out hope that even more of the building's original decorations can be located.
"I wish we could find the T-Ice sign," Selser said.
Original Print Headline: Ice house still cool
Robert Evatt 918-581-8447
Employees of Selser Schaefer Architects work in the firm's new headquarters Thursday. CHRISTOPHER SMITH/ Tulsa World
The new Selser Schaefer Architects office is at 2002 E. Sixth St. CHRISTOPHER SMITH/ Tulsa World
Robert Schaefer and Janet Selser, principals of Selser Schaefer Architects, stand in the newly renovated lobby of their office on Thursday. CHRISTOPHER SMITH/ Tulsa World