Online Extra: Happy Ending for Oklahoma City's Gold Dome

A Doctor Wins a Preservation Award for Saving a Gem of a Bank.


Inside the renovated dome

Credit: Ron Frantz

On Oct 4, the National Trust presented Dr. Irene Lam with the National Preservation Board of Advisors Award for her work in saving the 1958 Gold Dome Bank in Oklahoma City from demolition in 2001.

"All I could see was everybody's hands clapping together, faster and faster. It was a great honor, and I will never forget this," Lam says. "I think they gave us this award because there was preservation work, restoration, and it was put to good use."

Lam created a place to unite the community; the Gold Dome houses a multicultural society that provides outreach services to the city's East Asian community.

"The multicultural society was started to invite cross-cultural awareness, education, and creative artwork to the community," Lam says. "We're using the area where the bank's vault was as an art gallery."

Made of aluminum paneling, the dome represents a style of roofing, popular in the 1950s, based on the ideas of Buckminster Fuller.  The restoration was a bit tricky.

"We needed to make everything handicapped-accessible," says architect Mike Kertok, who oversaw the project. "The unique geometry of the building made it difficult to fit an elevator without hitting any important structural elements, while making it possible to reach the partial basement. I had to go out and measure the whole building to find space for an elevator shaft."

Locals, who had formed a group called "Citizens of the Gold Dome," are very pleased with the completed project.

"I first saw the Gold Dome when I was two years old. And now I work inside the Dome," says Ron Frantz, Lam's tenant, who nominated her for the award. "It's a major preservation success story for Oklahoma City. It's great to be here."

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