Stunning Renovation 
for Ogden High

Often regarded as the finest example of Art Deco architecture in Utah, Ogden High School was the first $1 million school in the U.S. when it was built as a Depression Era project by the Works Progress Administration in 1937. Over the years, renovations were made and enrollment grew, but by 2006 Ogden School District officials were faced with the need to replace or restore the historic school. A bond issue passed by voters provided some funding for the $58 million project, which was augmented by nearly $9 million raised by a group of enthusiastic alumni.

Not only did alumni pitch in to help with the restoration but the job of designing the project fell to Robert Herman, AIA, of Salt Lake City-based EDA Architects and an Ogden High graduate.
“To be able to come back, all these years later to a building I knew and grew up with and do this renovation was a unique experience,” said Herman.

The renovation/restoration was carried out in three phases beginning with the construction of a new field house, followed by a new cafeteria and commons area, seismic upgrading of the foundation and shear walls with the restoration of the historic auditorium.

On solid ground:

Corey Price, a structural engineer for Reaveley Engineers and Associates of Salt Lake City said the foundation of the school needed rehabilitating first.

“In some places the soil under the building had settled and there were some big voids under some of the slabs. We did a lot of replacement of slab-on-grade,” said Price. “We also went in with mining equipment and drill rigs and put in new micro-piles to support the existing footings. Some of them went 60 to 90 ft into the ground.”

Project Manger Patrick Alcorn of Hughes General Contractors of North Salt Lake, said around 200 micro-piles were installed at various points around the building’s exiting foundation. Price said new shear walls were installed or retrofitted to existing walls.

Alcorn said none of the existing walls in the historic building were moved in the process. “There were some strict guidelines on what could be changed,” said Alcorn.

Price said walls were also braced and the exterior brick veneer was secured with a system of helotie bolts.

The new shear walls were tied to the floor and into a new roof diaphragm after the removal and replacement of the original roof.

Raising the curtain on the next act:

But while the shoring, shear walls and bracing were all necessary, a highlight of the project was the restoration of the school’s auditorium. The 33,700 sq ft facility with its intricate, Art Deco plasterwork is one of the best examples of this form in Utah according to EDA.

Again, reinforcing work was required before restoration could go on. Seismic reinforcement of the walls in the space was complicated according to Alcorn. Traditional center coring work could damage the plaster work from water used in the process and vibration. Alcorn said the team reached out to a California subcontractor specializing in “dry-coring” reinforcement work in historic buildings. The process drills cores without using water as a lubricant and drilling proceeds slowly enough to minimize vibrations.

“That was a tough part of the job,” said Alcorn. “Some of the cores we drilled down the walls had to be about 40 ft long. We had to do about 100 of them and we averaged about three a day. The other issue is that if you are off by as much as a quarter inch at the top, you could end up drilling out of the wall.”

Alcorn said inside the auditorium the seats in the best condition were repaired and moved to the balcony while new seating, designed to resemble the originals, was installed on the main floor.

Herman said little work had ever been done to repair or restore the decorative plasterwork with its large amounts of gold and silver leaf accents and vibrant colors. “There was good documentation on what the original work looked like so we used that for the restoration,” he said.

Original wood wainscoting in the auditorium and in the school’s library was also restored. Above the auditorium stage, a new catwalk system was added along with new lighting and controls.
Alcorn said extra reinforcing work was done around the stage area and the fly-loft.

“There was unreinforced masonry there so we added a brace frame there,” he said. “We added steel beams that run the full height of the fly-loft and reinforced it with rebar and shotcrete.”
Replacing the roof of the auditorium caused some anxious days.
“We did the roof replacement in the summer; that was a 24 hours a day, seven days a week effort to prevent the weather or anything like that ruining the artwork,” he said. “There were a few times we had to seal everything off and wait for a storm to come through, but most of them seemed to miss us.”

In with the new:
As important as it was, the restoration and reinforcing of the existing structure was, it was only part of the project. New sections needed to be added and in a way that was complimentary to the existing building, said Herman.

“We needed to make a 21st Century-learning environment using a 75-year-old building,” he said. “Trying to integrate those two requirements while respecting the building was a real balancing act from a design standpoint.”

The new additions to the campus include a new 54,000 sq ft athletic field house to the east of the existing building. A new 8,500 sq ft cafeteria and commons area was attached to the east wall of the existing building, filling a space formerly occupied by a parking lot.

The new construction is distinct in materials, utilizing aluminum and glass while incorporating signage and decorative elements referencing the art deco design of the original building.
Price said structurally the new sections were attached to the existing building as minimally as possible.

“We didn’t want to do anything to the existing building we couldn’t reverse,” said Price. The school was kept open through the renovation and completed near the end of 2012.

Project Team

Owner: Ogden City School District
Architects: EDA (design); CRSA (historical)
GC: Hughes General Contractors
Structural: Reaveley Engineers + Associates.
Mechanical: Colvin Engineering
Electrical: Spectrum Engineers

 

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