The Only Two Towers Frank Lloyd Wright Ever Built
Dedicated to Ms. Jones and Mrs. M
Bartlesville, Oklahoma 1952
The Price Tower Architect
It was 1952, and Frank Lloyd Wright received a message from Harold C. Price Jr. to build an office building for his company. Price was the owner of a large oil industry called H. C. Price. Twenty years earlier, Wright thought of an idea for the St. Marks building in New York City, but when the Great Depression hit, the blueprints were shelved for a later use. Now seemed to be the time to uncover the designs and put them to use. He had been longing to create a skyscraper, and in his late 70’s the man knew he was running out of time.
The building was going to be used as an office building. Price wanted the building a horizontal structure, standing two stories high. Nevertheless, Wright countered with 21 stories as he planned for the St. Marks building. With a final count of 19 stories, Wright and Price met and became friends quite quickly, because they agreed on many things. The experienced architect had planned for the building to be designed like a tree, since he was always fascinated with nature, shown in most of his buildings.
The location would be a small town in Oklahoma named Bartlesville. With the area having no skyscrapers, the Price Tower would be very distinct from the other buildings. The tower uses the colors copper and green to display its connection with nature. The building was built from 1953- 1956. Because of its tree like appearance, it has claimed the nickname "The tree that escaped the crowded forest."
Bartlesville, Oklahoma 1952
As the owner of the H. C. Price Company, Harold C. Price Jr. wanted to build an office building for his company. He was redirected by Bruce Goff and turned his attention to the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. As he knew, Wright designed mainly flat buildings, but had to settle on a tower with 19 stories. Price went to talk with Wright and made all plans for the building.
Price suggested many ideas for the design of the building. The colors and interior were based off of not just Wright's ideas, but his too. Things such as the furniture and structural layout were all things that were influenced by him. His fascination with architecture and design made it so he could be included in the steps of the building and designing.
The main construction started in 1953. Not only did the design take an average amount of time, it sped up due to Price taking risks and him working with Wright. When construction was finished in 1956, Price had an idea for the building. He wanted residential space to keep up with the financial costs. However, his suggestion was turned down. Although not all of Price’s ideas were accepted, he still had a large contribution to the Price Tower.
Oklahoma University, 1951
First Choice for Designer
Bruce Goff was the Dean of Architecture at Oklahoma University. One day, a student named Joe Price, who was the son of Harold C. Price Jr., came to him to ask a question. Joe wanted Goff to design the Price Tower for H. C. Price. Goff had many other buildings to work on and wasn’t sure if he had enough time. He turned down the offer, but led them to Frank Lloyd Wright.
Wright had been serving as Goff’s mentor, so they had a close bond. Likewise, he was also an architect that designed many other buildings. A lot of them he had built in Bartlesville, where the Price Tower was being erected. Furthermore, Price and Goff knew each other because Goff taught many of Price’s relatives, including children, at Oklahoma University.
When the Price Tower was finished, Goff decided to set up an office in the rental
space. This made it so he could work on his other buildings in the area. He didn’t just help the tower, but the tower helped him too, because he was able to manage his buildings in the area easily. The Price Tower probably would not of been able to be built if it wasn’t for Bruce Goff.
Bartlesville, Oklahoma, 2002
In 2002, the Price Tower was looking for renovation because it was getting old and it didn’t have proper cleaning or care. When Wendy Evans Joseph was giving a lecture in Bartlesville, she was approached by a man name Richard Townsend who asked her a question. Wendy Evans Joseph was asked to turn the first eight floors of the Price Tower into the Inn at Price Tower, which is a hotel. In addition, she was also asked to design a restaurant and bar named Copper on the 15th and 16th floors. Joseph accepted the offer and started to brainstorm ideas.
The 21 rooms she made were following Wright’s creations, but she added some touches of her own. This made it so her work wouldn’t be the same building it was before. On the other hand, a lot of her ideas made it so you could tell the difference between her work and the original design. Most of the furniture and art inside was customly made by her. Joseph’s design made it so not just one piece is outstanding, but everything in the room adds to one big “picture”.
The renovation was finished in 2003. Joseph used her prior architecture skills to help create 21 magnificent suites. The custom artwork just goes to show how much time and effort she put into the tower. In conclusion, without Wendy Evans Joseph, the Price Tower may have not been standing today. She didn’t just restore a building, she made it better.
Bartlesville, Oklahoma, 2002
Designer of the Arts Center
In 2002 the H. C. Price Company was looking for someone to build an expansion on the skyscraper. It was called the Price Tower Art Center, which would serve as a museum for the tower and other exhibits. They came across a 2004 Pritzker Prize Winner, an architectural award, Zaha Hadid. She was the first woman to be awarded the prize, and also the youngest at age 53. She was asked to design the Arts Center and she said yes.
One the first things she noticed was that some roads and unused parking lots were in the way of construction. As a result, she and her team interviewed town members to ask what they could take down. After that, they cleared out an area for the building and started designing the interior. The area where they were was near perfect.
The center had a plaza to the south of it. Therefore, it would act as an approach to the building. Hadid started to work on the design of the inside. Her previous experience in architecture helped her think of ideas and be more creative. The Arts Center is now a popular museum, and people from everywhere flock there to see the history behind the incredible Price Tower.
Owner of SC Johnson & Son
Herbert F. Johnson was the owner of SC Johnson & Son. The company was in need for an architect to design a research tower they were going to build. Frank Lloyd Wright was the first person in mind. He asked if Wright could build the tower and he said yes. Later, Johnson and Wright met and got to work.
When they first met they didn’t agree on anything. They didn’t enjoy being around one another and had negative attitudes to the other. This is shown when Johnson said, “He had a Lincoln-Zephyr and I had one; that was the only thing we agreed on. On all other matters we were at each others throats.” Although the partners had a rough start, they got friendlier and they were finally able to be productive.
The final product fit Johnson’s expectations. The workers were thinking of better ideas because of the way Wright built the inside. Therefore, the company suddenly became a very successful and large industry. But once he looked more into it, he saw problems. For example, there were no escape routes for the employees to take in case of an emergency. The space was small and clustered and there wasn’t room for many things. Also, he had to change Wright’s idea of three legged chairs because the workers kept on falling when they went to reach for something. Later on, the space had to close down, and it was left empty, with no purpose.