Bank of America Center Building has ‘Wow Factor’

INTERNATIONAL DESIGN: The Bank of America building in Tulsa is frequently referred to as a design product of the international school which is “characterized by an emphasis on volume over mass, the use of lightweight, mass-produced, industrial materials, rejection of all ornament and color, repetitive modular forms, and the use of flat surfaces, typically alternating with areas of glass.”

The Bank of America Center Building at 15 West 6th Street, originally known as the Fourth National Bank of Tulsa Building, was built on the site of the old Tulsa County Courthouse. In 1967 when it opened, at 412 feet tall, 32 stories, it was the tallest building in Tulsa. Today it is the fifth tallest in Tulsa and the ninth tallest in the state. Its net occupiable area is 288,774 square feet.
The original owners of this structure probably considered it a cutting edge contemporary building although it is frequently referred to as a design product of the international school.
Designed by the Tulsa architectural firm, Kelley and Marshall, it was an immediate financial success. Kelley and Marshall, who were also involved in real estate development, built at least two other office towers of similar design in different cities. The architects were proud enough of the Bank of America Building that their offices were located on the top floor for many years.
What is most interesting about this building is how it functionally combines four different types of occupancies in one single tower and from the exterior articulates them in the overall design.
The bulk of the ground floor with storefront glass walls at Boulder and 6th Street was planned to be retail space. Originally it was occupied by Fourth National Bank. Today, it is the downtown branch of Bank of America. Above it is a seven-floor parking garage accessed by a ramped entrance from Boulder Avenue. On top of the garage are 21 floors of commercial office space capped by three floors of a private club. The building is owned and managed by Price Family Properties.
The top three floors are occupied by the Summit Club. When it opened on one floor as the new kid on the block, it was one of three downtown clubs. Two of them have closed, while the Summit Club remains and is thriving.
From its exterior, the Bank of American Center follows a classic triparte design with a base, a shaft and a distinctive cap. The base is the parking garage which with a glass ground floor appears to float. It is faced with cream colored rusticated marble panels composed of small rectangular pieces. For a few years, there was an adhesive problem with these which has apparently been fixed. Ventilating this base are tall, narrow louvered openings spaced regularly around the perimeter.
The shaft is glass curtain wall with golden bronze glass spandrels between dark gray glass windows arranged in a horizontal banded pattern. This shaft is strongly recessed back from the parking garage below.
The crown of this building, its tour de force, are the three top floors, glass deeply recessed behind overhanging roof and column structures highlighted by aggressively projecting balconies. The off white color of the base below is carried out in the marble facing of columns, balcony railings, and roof fascias. This wow factor cap dramatically sets the building apart from other high rise Tulsa structures.