BARTLESVILLE, Okla. -- Frank Lloyd Wright designed hundreds of buildings over his long career, and he's arguably America's best architect. Yet there's only one Frank Lloyd Wright skyscraper: the 19-story Price Tower in this small town in northeast Oklahoma.
The design is based on one Wright created for a building that was supposed to be erected in New York City in the 1930s. But economic hard times made it impossible for that building to become reality.
When Hal Price, the owner of a global oil pipeline company came calling, Wright knew just the design he wanted for Price's new office building in Bartlesville.
As part of CNET Road Trip 2014, I visited Price Tower to see how Wright's work translates into a tall office building.
Though the Price Tower has louvers on all sides, these are the only ones that are meant to be moved intentionally. Found on the veranda outside what was originally the Price Company's corporate apartment, they are topped with a fake owl that scares off birds.
For Wright, a skyscraper meant a building that was used in many different ways. So the Price Tower contained apartments, offices, and retail space. This is the Price Company's corporate apartment, which was used by the company's VIP guests, or its employees when they were in Bartlesville. It has been maintained to look much like it did when the Price Company was still using the building.
In the bottom right corner of the mural in the corporate apartment, Wright left this inscription to Hal Price: "The Blue Moon - To Hal. Frank Lloyd Wright." This was a reference to Wright's feeling that his collaboration with Price was so good as to be as rare as a blue moon.
Almost everywhere you look in and around Price Tower are sharp angles, especially triangles. There are few, if any, circles.
When Price and Wright were still in the design stage, Price insisted on a large map of the world for his wall, but Wright hated the idea. Still, as the owner of a global pipeline company, Price needed to have a map of the world in his office so he could consult with clients about the location of their projects. The compromise was this globe. Wright had it placed behind the door.
A view of the Price Tower from several blocks away in Bartlesville. In the foreground is a Phillips 66 gas station. Bartlesville is best known as the corporate headquarters of Phillips Petroleum, later Conoco Phillips. And the Phillips company purchased the Price Tower when Price himself decided he didn't need it any more.