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OU College of Architecture adapts 'Renegades' Bruce Goff exhibit to interactive online experience

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Union Sketch

Sketch of The University of Oklahoma Memorial Union, designed by Sorey & Vahlberg Architects, from 1927. This piece is one of many pieces in the Renegades American School online exhibit.

The Christopher C. Gibbs College of Architecture has adapted an exhibit, “Renegades,” into an interactive online experience as a result of COVID-19 closures. 

“Renegades” is a joint exhibition between the Christopher C. Gibbs College of Architecture and the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art. According to a press release, the exhibit examines the career and legacy of architect Bruce Goff and the American School

According to the College of Architecture’s website, the American School is a school of design and practice developed by architects such as Goff and Herb Greene at OU in the 1950s and ‘60s. The school created a curriculum that emphasized individual creative forms, organic forms and experimentation.

After the exhibition was closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, the College of Architecture explored ways to make the exhibit accessible to the public. According to Director of the Division of Architecture Stephanie Pilat, the college was able to utilize existing resources to make the switch to a digital platform.

“In the end, we created this virtual experience — which we think is almost as good as the actual experience,” Pilat said. 

According to Pilat, Associate Professor of Construction Science Somik Ghosh used a Matterport scanner to create a 3D scan of the exhibit. The scan is accompanied by informational text and images created by Angela Person, director of research initiatives and strategic planning. 

The digital tour can be accessed through the College of Architecture’s website. The tour simulates walking through the exhibit using informational videos, explanations of the pieces and a close-up look at the items on display. 

According to the art museum’s website, the exhibit includes over 150 drawings, documents and objects. Many of these were obtained from the American School Archive in the OU Libraries Western History Collection. 

The online exhibit also includes a “Play Architect!” experience, in which children are presented with a unique client and asked to create a house specific to the client’s needs. 

“We wanted to give kids the experience of playing architect, but not just in the traditional kind of ‘get some Legos out’ way, because that wouldn't be in the American School philosophy,” Pilat said. “These architects were always responding to a very specific site and to the individuality of each client. We knew we had to give the kids dramatic and specific sites to build on.”

According to Pilat, “Renegades” is a result of a collaborative effort of many campus organizations over the past four years. 

“It's really been this great partnership with Gibbs College of Architecture, Fred Jones (Museum), OU Press and OU Libraries all working together, every step of the way on this,” Pilat said. 

While an online experience wasn’t the intention for the exhibit, Pilat said it has created new opportunities. 

“I think it will be a model for how to ensure that the physical experience of being in a space and seeing a museum exhibition is preserved and is accessible,” Pilat said. “Now we can keep it up forever. And we can allow people on the other side of the planet to take this virtual tour through the exhibition.”

Emmy is a professional writing and modern dance senior, and a news reporter for The Daily.

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