Project Information: BOK (Bank Of Oklahoma) Center, Oklahoma, USA
Architect: Cesar Pelli
Client: City of Tulsa
Size: 55,000 SQ.M.
Year of Completion: 2008

BOK Center, Oklahoma, USA by Cesar Pelli- Wrapped Contemporary - Sheet1
BOK Center ©

“This building for me tries to express the spirit of what I found in Tulsa, a sense of optimism, and sense of can-do and faith in the future, and this is what the building is about, excitement and the joy to be alive,” said architect Pelli. (©

BOK Center, Oklahoma, USA by Cesar Pelli- Wrapped Contemporary - Sheet2
Daylight inside the arena. ©

Designed by Pelli architects, the BOK Center is an 18000 seat multipurpose sports and entertainment center that brings in international and national events and matches to Tulsa. Events like sports matches, concerts and other large public gatherings take place in this arena. Located in the west of the downtown of the city, this arena has easy accessibility to the public as well as private transportation.

The bold design of the arena reflects the client’s desire to create a unique architectural image for the city of Tulsa. The project was given an iconic look through glass curtain walls. The use of large glass sweeping and tilting dynamically in elevation along with stainless steel walls in a spiral manner marks the modern architectural language of the building. The architect indicates that his design was inspired by the culture of the people of Oklahoma with details of native American deco style taking center stage. The architect incorporated the cultural value of the building in a contemporary structure.

BOK Center, Oklahoma, USA by Cesar Pelli- Wrapped Contemporary - Sheet3
Interior-Exterior connection of the structure indicating visual transparency. ©

For the architect, the inspiration for this structure came from the architectural language of both natural and built surroundings in which it is situated. He introduced curves in the facade because of the bend of the Arkansas River and the arc of Tulsa’s curvilinear highways. The round tribal dwellings of Native American heritage in Tulsa is one of the most cherished aspects which was once used in midwestern states in the United States. This inspired the architect to use a curvilinear form for the entire structure.

BOK Center, Oklahoma, USA by Cesar Pelli- Wrapped Contemporary - Sheet4
Stainless steel panels on the exterior. ©

There are sweeping circular elements in the interior and the exterior of the structure which are in a constant manner, consisting of a 160kg panel of glass facade in a leaning way at a five-degree angle that wraps the entire building. The 180-meter long iconic curving glass wall has a height of more than 30 meters. Stainless steel panels (33000 in number) in the circumference completes the spiraling form.

BOK Center, Oklahoma, USA by Cesar Pelli- Wrapped Contemporary - Sheet5
A staircase running in the periphery of the structure. ©

This project was completed in the year 2008 at a cost of $196 million, funded by the city of Tulsa. The view from every part of the structure through the glass wall provides a strong connection between the occupants and the city. In various sports where glare would create a negative impact, the expansive glass wall was dealt with by fitting half of the wall with a ceramic frit pattern. At night the entire glass wall is lit as it is fitted with a system of 66 integrated metal halide lamps that glows in 1000 different hues through the night.

BOK Center, Oklahoma, USA by Cesar Pelli- Wrapped Contemporary - Sheet6
The elliptical shape of the structure, interior view. ©

The scale of the building is large, the arena encompasses 52,500 sq.m. (565000 sq.ft.) and reaches a height of 41meters. The structure has multiple layers of laminated glass and reinforced support of the wall thus can withstand wind speed of over 160 km/hr, as it is situated in a tornado-prone region. The flexible layout of the center allows the accommodation of sports events like hockey, NCAA events, arena football, performing arts, concerts and other public gatherings that demands theatre-like seating arrangement which was not possible earlier in the city of Tulsa. In this way, it became an iconic structure for the city of Tulsa attended by thousands of people in Tulsa in a year.

BOK Center, Oklahoma, USA by Cesar Pelli- Wrapped Contemporary - Sheet7
Night view – Metal halide lamps light the entire glass facade. ©

The BOK Center has public restrooms, dressing rooms, hydrotherapy, workout rooms, player’s lounge locker rooms for game officials, office spaces for coaches, trainers, apart from accommodating multiple arenas. Around the building, there are concession outlets that act as small restaurants where people can buy food and beverages.

The selection of this project by Cesar Pelli came with a challenge to make this arena an icon for the downtown city which the architect established through the modern and unique design which he says looked even better than he imagined. It is difficult not to see the success that BOK Center has brought with it for the city of Tulsa, even as it continues to chase the development goals for Vision 2025. The contemporary design has gathered a lot of attention which draws in both national and regional sporting tournaments to this impressive work by Cesar Pelli.



Diksha is an architecture graduate from Nirma University, 2020. Being an avid traveler, she has always tried to connect the city's culture with architecture. She is a keen observer, finds inspiration from unexplored places and believes that true essence of architecture lies in its execution (form generation) and user experience.

Write A Comment