Price Tower (1952)
Frank Lloyd Wright, Architect
510 Dewey Avenue, Bartlesville, OK 74003
From my archives, Photos from October 17 and 19th, 2004; and November 16, 2008
One of my favorite buildings, anywhere, anytime, by any architect.
I have visited the Price Tower 3 times, and it has never disappointed, in fact each time I visit I see something new and appreciate it more.
Originally the Tower was conceived as a mixed use “skyscraper” for the Price Company, with offices, apartments and retail space. It still functions as a mixed-use tower, but with some different uses. It is currently houses a gallery, gift shop and arts center on the first and second floors, offices and a boutique hotel in the tower, and a restaurant and bar near the top. Mr. Price’s office on the top floor ( and the rest of the building infact ) is a museum open to the public for tours.
The reinforced concrete structure of the building is concentrated in the core area of the building, with the floor plates cantilevered out from the building’s core. Wright compares the structure of the tower to that of a tree, and calls the tower “the tree that escaped the crowded forest”. There is a tap root foundation, the building core or trunk rises up and the floors are cantilevered out like the branches of a tree. The curtainwall system is applied to the edge of the floor slabs with a series of horizontal and vertical copper sunscreens providing both shade, and a complex facade design which makes each side of the building appear unique.
To appreciate how exceptional and complex this building is, you should study the floor plans. The integration of the various uses in really small floor plates is complex. The apartments are two story spaces, with the second floor angled across as a mezzanine overlooking the living area. This not only provides a dramatic two story space for the living room, but also creates an intimate exterior balcony for the bedroom as the angled mezzanine continues beyond the curtainwall in the corner. Private offices are located in the other 3 quadrants of the tower floors.
The design and construction of the building is documented in a book by Frank Lloyd Wright called “The Story of the Tower” (Horizon Press 1956). If you can get a copy of this book, you will be able to understand the design through drawings, construction photographs, and Wright’s own words describing his intentions with the design.
The last two times I visited, the Inn at Price Tower was open and I was able to stay over night in the tower. I highly recommend it. The two story apartments are available as suites, with some of the offices converted into guest rooms as well. There is nothing like spending a few days in the building. You can go on the tour, see what exhibit is in the gallery, have a drink and dinner in the 15th floor Copper Bar, and watch the sunset over the Oklahoma plains through the two story windows in the living room of your apartment hotel suite.