Price Tower receives Keeping It Modern grant

Kelsey Walker |
The Price Tower received a Keeping It Modern Grant.

Bartlesville’s Price Tower is one of 12 recipients in the U.S. of the Getty Foundation’s 2017 Keeping It Modern Grants. The foundation recently announced $1.66 million in architectural conservation grants dedicated to 12 significant 20th century buildings as part of its Keeping it Modern initiative.

Price Tower is just the second Frank Lloyd Wright site to be selected (the Robie House was selected in 2014), and the first site in Oklahoma.

“It’s quite an honor. We couldn’t be more proud of the team of volunteers and staff who put much effort, time and thought into this grant,” said Angelina Boungou, director of advancement. “The Price Tower is one to keep your eyes on. Frank Lloyd Wright would be proud to receive such recognition for his only skyscraper.”

Since its inception in 2014, Keeping It Modern has supported 45 international conservation projects that collectively point to the importance of research and planning for the preservation of modern architectural heritage.

“This award will help us strategically plan for the Price Tower’s future preservation and conservation efforts,” Boungou said. “It will help us be prepared for potential aging or structural issues, if any. It will help us to strategically plan, financially, to be prepared for these efforts as well. We are truly a unique treasure in Oklahoma, and one that Bartians and Sooners should be proud of, and as a community, be excited about preserving this treasure.”

Among this year’s most recognizable projects is Germany’s Bauhaus Building, the revered Dessau structure designed by architect Walter Gropius, who incorporated design features that would ultimately become synonymous with modern architecture around the world.

Other projects selected to receive funding include the Coventry Cathedral, Coventry, England; Boston City Hall, Boston, Mass.; Sidi Harazem Thermal Bath Complex, Sidi Harazem, Morocco; Yoyogi National Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan; Faculty of Architecture Building, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey; Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand (MASP), São Paulo, Brazil; St Peter’s Seminary, Glasgow, Scotland; Government Museum and Art Gallery, Chandigarh, India; Melnikov House, Moscow, Russia; and Stadio Flaminio, Rome, Italy.

“Over the past three years, we have given 45 Keeping It Modern grants in 22 countries, and we bring together experts working on the conservation projects each summer to share their findings. Together our colleagues are building a critical body of knowledge for the stewardship of modern buildings,” says Deborah Marrow, director of the Getty Foundation. “This year’s 12 new projects, along with prior grants for landmarks all over the world, will provide models for the protection of modern architecture for future generations.”

The sole skyscraper of influential architect Wright stands out in the prairie landscape of Bartlesville. Price Tower rises 19 stories tall and remains a commanding feature of Bartlesville’s skyline. For the interior spaces, Wright designed a mix of offices, shops and residences that would generate revenue from residential and commercial leases. The arrangement succeeded, and the building remained in use, as designed, until its sale to Phillips Petroleum in 1981. Phillips renovated Price Tower’s mechanicals, plumbing, and electrical systems, and stabilized the exterior prior to donating the building to Price Tower Arts Center in 2002.

Upon assuming ownership, the PTAC has taken important steps to preserve the tower as a living example of Wright’s architecture. An adaptive reuse plan for nine floors created hotel rooms and a restaurant, while preserving character-defining features. The Price Company’s executive offices and corporate apartment still remain largely in their original condition or have been restored to approximate their original state. In recognition of PTAC’s sensitive restoration and quality stewardship, Price Tower was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2007.

While PTAC has carefully preserved and adapted Price Tower to meet contemporary needs, additional structural and mechanical repairs at the historic site are necessary. A comprehensive conservation management plan will be developed that takes a holistic view of the building’s long-term care and promises to deepen the field’s understanding of the skyscraper’s architectural significance. The Price Tower was awarded $75,000 in grant support for the conservation management plan.

According to Price Connors, education and outreach specialist at Price Tower, the plan will begin this fall with a site visit by Gunny Harboe, restoration architect of Chicago, and his consultants. Harboe is known for his restoration and conservation work with Wright structures. Connors said the conservation plan will take about 1 1/2 years to complete.

“The plan will focus on material conservation and conserving the existing structure and materials used in construction,” Connors said. “This will provide a plan for the future in keeping the building to survive into the future. All areas will be studied by our consultant and specialists from all over the country including Oklahoma. Extensive historical research will be done by our Price Tower staff in providing a comprehensive view of the past, present and future of the Price Tower.”

If anyone is interested in contributing to the endeavor and the conservation project, contact Boungou or Executive Director Scott Ambler at 918-336-4949.

— Alexandria Sivak, senior communications specialist, J. Paul Getty Trust, contributed to this report.