A moment of silence for a modernist landmark lost.

Oklahoma City has lost a prime example of Mid Century Modern architecture. Despite having been listed on the state’s Most Endangered Historic Places list in May, what was once the Founders National Bank no longer stands.

modernist landmark Mid Century Modern architecture Founders National Bank Atomic Ranch
Photo by Lynne Rostochil/Via OKC Mod

About the Modernist Landmark

The unique building featured two 50-foot exterior arches and had been “an architectural icon of the city since 1964,” according to Sydney Franklin of The Architect’s Newspaper.
Originally designed by Bob Bowlby, who was a student of famous Oklahoma architect Bruce Goff, the building served first as the home of Founders National Bank and eventually housed a Bank of America for over 20—until last August, that is. “It was Bowlby’s first project after finishing his degree at the University of Oklahoma and the only one he’s completed in his hometown,” writes Sydney.

“Preservationists and advocates for the building are already mourning its loss. The unique arches—the focal point of the design—were easily visible from the city’s arterial roadways and drew people to the modernist building for well over half a century. Bowlby’s spaceship-like structure, sometimes also likened to a large-scale football, allowed the interior to be designed without walls.

Brick walls and floor-to-ceiling glass windows lined the oval perimeter and a white, concrete roof seemingly floated atop its round core. Suspension cables, much like the ones seen on suspension bridges, connected the arches to the roof. A multi-lane drive-through was also designed next to the building.”

modernist landmark Mid Century Modern architecture Founders National Bank Atomic Ranch
Photo by Julius Shulman, courtesy J. Paul Getty Trust via The Architect’s Newspaper

From the article:

In January 2016, an online petition to preserve the building was started via the modern architecture blog, Okie Mod Squad, and received 1,072 supporters. In a post dedicated to the event, Bowlby himself commented on the controversy:

“My design and the subsequent building of the Founders National Bank building of 1964 is, I think, a one of a kind and interesting example of the contemporary Oklahoma architectural scene in its mid-century period and as such should be kept if at all possible as part of the architectural heritage of Oklahoma City. Surely, an effort could be made made by the new owners to find some new and suitable usage of the building.”

 

To learn more about the building, including the efforts put forth to save it, visit The Architect’s Newspaper or Okie Mod Squad.