In the second essay in a five-part series for Casabella on Gordon Bunshaft, architectural historian Nicholas Adams examines the First City National Bank Building and Pavilion. Designed by SOM in 1960, the Houston bank represents the firm's commitment to redefining its design aesthetic at a time when glass-walled International Style buildings were criticized as "skin and bones."
The 32-story tower features recessed windows set back by nearly five feet, resulting in a striking white marble exoskeleton that offers solar protection. The tower is adjacent to a single story banking hall with a drive-in teller service. The bank was initially a huge success; not only was it well-received by the press, but it demonstrated the firm's ability to evolve in form and materiality while remaining decidedly on-brand. Although the building's subsequent history is less fortunate, it proved to be a pivotal moment in Bunshaft's career and the history of SOM.
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