The Conncourse, named for Jack Conn, is a system of tunnels and bridges which connects 23 buildings in the core of downtown Oklahoma City. The first tunnel was constructed in 1931, crossing under Broadway Avenue and connecting the historic Skirvin Hotel to Skirvin Tower (now known as 101 Park Avenue). The majority of the Conncourse was built between 1972 and 1984.
Virtually untouched since the 1970s, the space had fallen into disrepair with duct-taped carpet and brown-on-brown color scheme. Through the leadership of Downtown OKC, Inc., the City of Oklahoma City and the Conncourse Association, a plan was developed whereby the “attached” building owners would assess themselves in order to make the improvements. The portions of the Conncourse that traverse buildings are owned and maintained by attached individual building owners. The portions of the Conncourse that are between buildings are maintained and managed by Downtown OKC, Inc.
The purpose of this project is to improve the quality and public perception of the Conncourse. Changing the name to the Underground is one step in changing the perception. The combination of music, colored light, understandable way-finding and historic themed galleries make moving from point A to B rhythmic, surprising and educational. The re-invention of the Underground has transformed the space from a dark, dated maze to a “walkable” entertainment. A new program supporting art installations, in addition to the historic Downtown galleries, focuses on art in vacant storefronts to create interest for new retail. There are mile markers installed in order to allow downtown walkers to calibrate distance.
Signage and a new logo, also designed by the Architects, and way-finding elements play a crucial role in the success of the Underground. Outdoor signage at Underground entrances is consistent and easily seen from the street. New brightly colored “Portals” and “Panels” mark tunnel intersections and incorporate signage to help users locate their destinations. The Underground concept uses color as a navigational tool for users. The security guards give directions by suggesting that to get from point A to point B, you simply follow the green light to the red light to the yellow light to reach your destination.
Underground segments adopt “gallery” themes to make locations memorable, helping visitors navigate the space and providing visual interest along the way. Photographs and art relating to the nine themes are hung on gallery walls, providing points of interest and opportunities to learn about Downtown Oklahoma City’s history. The historical photo galleries are “Banking in Downtown Oklahoma City,” “City and County Government,” “Downtown Commerce,” “Energy and Public Utilities in Downtown Oklahoma City,” Our Federal Government Downtown,” “The Murrah Building,” “Construction of the Federal Courthouse,” and “Overview of Downtown History.” The “Light Gallery,” one of 11different colored lighting installations, provides users with the unique experience of walking through a permanent art installation. The Light Gallery uses blue and yellow light to create white light.