The April 2015 IFMA Tulsa meeting speaker was Andy Kinslow with Kinslow, Keith & Todd. Andy’s program centered around the Tornado Tower project and how it has taken on a life of its’ own.
The Tornado Tower started with a request from Tulsa People magazine. Tulsa People contacted six firms about “reimaging” downtown Tulsa and three firms responded. One of those firms was KKT. Tulsa People was going to do a special edition on reimaging downtown Tulsa and was looking for these firms to pick a property in downtown Tulsa and reimage it.
KKT considered four different sites before deciding on a property at 212 S. Guthrie. Andy shared that finding a site that no one was already working on in some form or fashion was difficult. The site they selected was for sale, but to date, no one had made any offers on it and no one had drawn up any kind of plans to do anything with the site. For KKT, that was the main reason they selected that site. It wasn’t because they immediately imagined that the site was the perfect place for what was to become the Tornado Tower.
The original drawing for a building on the site was very basic. Feeling that was too boring, the next idea was to draw a sketch of what was basically a revolving restaurant on a stick. For fun, the name they gave the restaurant was Dorothy’s Bar and Grill. The name was a reference to the Wizard of Oz. Going along with the Wizard of Oz theme, the stick with the revolving restaurant started to become the Tornado Tower in future sketches.
From there, the design team working on this project (which is nothing more than a “reimagine downtown Tulsa” exercise for a local magazine) started coming up with ideas about what the Tornado Tower would contain. They imagined things like the tower housing an Oklahoma Weather Museum & Research Center, a collection of Gusty drawings (a cartoon character created by a local beloved Tulsa meteorologist), a history of tornados, etc. At one point, a publication from Uruguay got ahold of the story about the Tornado Tower and added some flying debris to the picture of the structure, adding more to the “tornado” look of the tower. KKT did give some consideration to adding the flying debris to their official drawing, but decided they liked their original sketch without it being there.
As their drawing took on more life, it finally ended up having seventeen floors and having LED lights swirling around the outside of the tower. Other features included outdoor viewing platforms, as well as the original restaurant idea. KKT got a call from a Dr. Joel who was working on a weather museum. As soon as the Tulsa People article appeared on-line, he called with interest in having a museum in the Tornado Tower which again, is only a fantasy at this point.
Before the Tulsa People article hit the newsstands, but after it went on-line, Andy tweeted out the story of the Tornado Tower to local news stations and the Fox network contacted him. That was followed by the Huffington Post contacting him and then Architectural Digest. If you “Google” the word “tornado,” the first thing that comes up is the Fox 23 article followed by articles from 43 countries about this building that is more fantasy than reality. It has taken on a life of its’ own.
A few questions were posed to Andy. One question was, “What happens if a tornado hits the Tornado Tower?” Andy’s reply was, “The same thing that happens to any other building hit by a tornado.” Another question was, “What is the estimated cost of building the Tornado Tower?” The answer was two parts. Number one, “$150 million.” Number two, “It’s a concept. Who knows?” The last question was, “Will it be built?” The answer was, “If someone has $150 million to invest.”
The interest is certainly there and the concept has created a lot of excitement, not only in Tulsa, but around the world. If the Tornado Tower is built, Andy said it was unlikely it would be on the site they selected for the reimaging project. That’s not to say it couldn’t happen there, but Andy felt like if it was going to become a reality, a better spot to construct the tower would likely be found.
To read the article that started it all, visit Tulsa People at http://www.tulsapeople.com/Tulsa-People/March-2015/Reimagining-downtown/.
Many thanks to Andy for taking the time to come and share his fascinating story. It was amazing to hear about how what was nothing more than an idea for a magazine article seemingly became a reality as it passed through the media.