Designer of World’s Tallest Buildings Takes on Tulsa

Wed February 18, 2004 - West Edition

TULSA, OK (AP) Architect Cesar Pelli was drawn to Tulsa by his desire to design an arena, a project he’d never before undertaken.

“Things I have not done are more appealing to me than things I have done many times,” said Pelli, the architect of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the world’s tallest buildings at 1,483 ft (452 m).

Pelli is the lead designer of Tulsa’s new $183-million downtown events center and convention center renovation. Construction will begin in December and should be complete by the first quarter of 2007, officials said.

“It is quite a coup for our city to have him here,” Mayor Bill LaFortune said in hailing the project as the harbinger of a revitalized downtown and a rejuvenated Tulsa economy.

The 18,000-seat arena and the facelift for the 38-year-old convention center were made possible by Tulsa County voters’ September approval of a $535 million in sales tax increases for development projects.

The design, engineering and construction contractors were announced Feb. 10 by the mayor’s office as the first major project from the economic development package began.

“Postcards sent out of Tulsa in the future, these buildings will be on those postcards,” LaFortune said.

Pelli said he won’t begin designing the building until he gets a better feel for downtown Tulsa. He’s reviewing photographs and books about the city and has been taking a look around.

“For the building to be right, to be a great building, the design needs to come out of a thorough understanding,” Pelli said with an Argentinean accent.

The New Haven, CT-based architect said he believes art deco, the early 20th-century style that characterizes many of the buildings in downtown Tulsa, “has received a bad rap in history books.”

“I’m not sure we’ll incorporate art deco but I am very sympathetic with art deco,” said Pelli, who has also designed performing arts centers in Charlotte, NC, and Cincinnati and the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.