TU Law School Unveils Guilty Pleasures and Smart Technologies of Redone Courtroom

Monday, January 27, 2003

Published on 1/27/03

Students at The University of Tulsa College of Law will no longer sharpen their courtroom skills amid the dark woods and supergraphics that went out with the disco era. The reopening of TU’s courtroom ends a seven-month, $600,000 renovation, revealing a versatile, forward-thinking space that is both architecturally appealing and technologically integrated.

Rich maple woods combine with textiles in muted neutrals and vegetable hues to create a modern presence. The main space, or “gallery,” can seat 87 people; the court area, or “well,” an additional 16. The gallery can accommodate two wheelchairs and a ramp offers access to the well.

A flexible wall system provides “three-rooms-in-one” versatility. With the wall stowed, the space features one big courtroom setting. When deployed, the wall creates two independently functional and soundproof areas, which can serve as a small courtroom or seminar room and a large classroom.

What can’t be seen is even more impressive, starting with wireless network access and leading to the project’s crowning achievement: state-of-the-art audio/visual systems.

“The room is designed for the future of law teaching,” said Ben Chapman, director of computing resources at the law school. “The technology here makes it the most advanced presentation system on campus.”

With one touch, presenters can control the lighting, screen and projector, and display images from computer, VCR, DVD or document camera (a modern-day overhead projector, minus the distortion). The document camera capability includes three-dimensional objects such as weapons and other pieces of evidence. “You can’t do that with PowerPoint,” Chapman said.

Four cameras make it possible to broadcast or record presentations. The system also receives commercial networks such as Court TV. This technology makes videoconferencing via Internet or phone lines a reality, creating the possibility of virtual job interviews between law students here and law firms anywhere in the world.

The courtroom also will function as the main auditorium for law school events.

Participants in the project included Martina Gangel, ASID, of Woody Design Associates, interior designer (also the interior designer for the Mabee Legal Information Center), Jim Most, Inc., general contractor; MCSi, Inc., audiovisual contractor; and Dan Dillingham, who provided technology design services.

Major donors were Linda Mitchell Price and Wm. Stuart Price as well as Michael C. and Susan Turpen. Norma and Richard Small also provided funding, as did numerous alumni and friends who have contributed to the Annual Giving Fund of the College of Law.

The courtroom’s official dedication is scheduled for April.