Sooner Play Tower, Bruce Goff, Bartlesville, Oklahoma, 1963

In news from my home state, I’m pleased that the  Sooner Play Tower, designed by Bruce Goff  in 1963, has been restored and reinstalled! The tower and sandpit were commissioned by Mary Lou Price, whose family were also architectural clients of Frank Lloyd Wright.  

Bartlesville’s Parks and Rec Department provides a great history of the space age-y construction: “Goff’s design for the Sooner Park Play Tower was based upon mathematic principles:  line, sphere, circle, cylinder, spiral and mobius strip.  The tower is a spiraling staircase with a metallic mesh sphere that reaches 50 feet in height to the tip of its spire.  Constructed of steel components (mesh fencing, perforated plate, textured tread plate, and steel rods), the tower was painted in primary colors red, yellow, and green.    The tower was placed within a circular concrete barrier (16” high and 16” deep) filled with sand that spanned 50 feet in diameter which served as a sand play pit.    Also included within the circular frame was a 6-foot high mobius strip constructed of continuous steel fencing with welded rods and raised on 12 piers, designed as a climbing and crawling feature. The mobius strip had only one side and one edge, so that by crawling continuously around for 360 degrees, the entire surface of the strip is traversed without crossing any boundaries.  Within the circle, the tower was positioned off-center, and tethered to the ground outside the perimeter of the concrete barrier with 12 cables, each adorned with metal beads in the same color scheme as the tower.   Once visitors progressed up the cylinder’s spiral staircase, they reached a metallic mesh sphere with a circular seat that gave a spectacular view of the city.”

Constructed in 1963 by Scott and Hill, a local structural steel fabrication company, the whole project came in at around $7,000 and took approximately three weeks to construct.    The play tower was closed in the early 1990’s due to deterioration….in the early morning hours of May 9, 2008, a vandal ran a vehicle into the tower cutting one of the remaining cables and damaging the fencing which encloses the spiral staircase. ”  Congratulations to Bartlesville residents for  raising $144,000 to restore and preserve this unique piece of midcentury play.   The unique aluminum ‘floats’ that decorate its cables are coming soon.  [thanks to Anne for the tip!]

One Response to “Sooner Play Tower, Bruce Goff, Bartlesville, Oklahoma, 1963”

  1. Lisa Beeman said:

    Paige,

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments. We would like to recreate the original mobius play structure that was at the base of the tower if we are able to secure funding for it in the future.

    Kind regards,
    Lisa Beeman
    Park and Recreation Director
    City of Bartlesville, OK

    February 03, 2016 at 12:19 pm

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