PLACES: Oklahoma City Council chamber at City Hall

Published: October 27, 2009
Modified: January 13, 2010 at 4:40 pm



If city governments had brains, this would be Oklahoma City’s pulsating cerebral cortex.

That’s not to say the city is brainless, per se, what with thousands of employees working for dozens of mission-specific departments. But if the city was a mammal, employees and departments would be more akin to blood cells and hemoglobin — important parts that keep the creature breathing, but just that: Parts.

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It is in this cavernous, ornate chamber that the parts come together. This is where decisions are made. This is the tick-tock, the intellect, the thinking place.

This is the brain.

Sound is sharp and fast in here. It shoots off the room’s marble, stone, steel and wood like a swimmer pushing off a pool wall on a turnaround. The floor is carpeted with a faded checkerboard pattern, but the carpet does little to deaden the decibels. Voices sound distinguished even if the person is not.

Push open any of its six heavy, steel doors and you’re immediately drawn to the front of the room. An imposing, dark wood desk where council members and the city’s top officials sit during meetings seems to swallow you. The desk is called the horseshoe because of its horseshoe shape. The city seal hanging above it has the juxtaposition of a halo. Facing the horseshoe are rows of wooden benches. Above it all, a press gallery looks down like the watchdog it was built for.

Computers, cameras, projectors, microphones and extra lighting for television broadcasts have been added to the chamber over the years. Still, even with all those staples of the digital world humming and transmitting and processing, this place feels like a time capsule, a snapshot of a past era.

Built in 1936, the chamber has retained its classic art deco design. Seven square chandeliers hanging from the towering ceiling are outlined in modernistic, art-deco style steel. A sculpture of an Indian chief’s head adorns each side. The chandeliers emit a deep yellow glow, giving the chamber an eminent, unique aura.

Amid the elegance, it’s easy to forget that nothing of much consequence happens in this city without first coming through this chamber to face the council members, board members, trustees and officials who do the people’s business. Buildings, laws, permits — no matter how innocuous, the brain processes them all.

-John Estus, Staff Writer

 


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