Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA
587,000 square feet / 54,500 square meters
The BOK Center is an 18,000-seat sports and entertainment venue that gives Tulsa its desired architectural icon. The design is contemporary while alluding to local culture, creating a world-class design that is truly Oklahoman. As a central element of Tulsa’s regional development plan, the arena draws people to the city’s revitalized downtown.
The design of the BOK Center reflects the city’s wish for an arena with a bold architectural image. The BOK Center’s modern design is a sweeping spiral of stainless steel and glass walls that tilt inward as they swirl around the arena. Drawing from the natural and built surroundings, the architectural language evokes the bend of the Arkansas River and the arc of Tulsa’s highways. The building’s curving form also recalls Tulsa’s Native American heritage by alluding to the round tribal dwellings once built in some Midwestern states.
Wrapping the southern façade of the BOK Center is a curving glass wall 180 meters (600 feet) in length. The icon wall, as this distinctive outer wall is known, contains 1,600 glass panels and reaches more than 30 meters (100 feet) above grade. By enabling views, the glass wall gives the BOK Center an unusually strong connection to the city for an arena. Visitors can look out to Tulsa from many places in the building, including some of the arena seats. Though the large expanse of glass appears transparent, about half of the icon wall glass is covered in a subtle ceramic frit pattern to prevent glare. The glass wall fills the building with light during the day. Awash in color at night, the icon wall reveals one of its most exciting features: a system of 66 integrated metal halide lamps that can glow in 1,000 different hues.
Exceeding local building code requirements in a tornado-prone region, the glass wall can withstand winds of over 160 kilometers (100 miles) per hour. To survive such severe gusts, the wall’s support structure is reinforced and has room for movement. For added strength, the glass panels have multiple layers that include laminated glass.
The BOK Center incorporates several site-specific artworks commissioned for the building: Dreamland, a multi-story painting of horses by celebrated Tulsa and New York City painter Joe Andoe; Stratum, a cloud-like installation by sculptors Kendall Buster and Siemon Allen; Realms, four 7-meter (22-foot) diameter medallions embedded in the terrazzo floors by Cherokee Nation father and son Bill and Demos Glass; and The Tallgrass Prairies, 25 scenes of the Tulsa prairie by local painter Mark Lewis.