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Phoenix midcentury modern landmark, a William Pereira original, is reborn

A sleek ‘50s bank has been retrofitted, providing a new office for the Cuningham Group

Farmers & Stockmen’s Bank
The Farmers & Stockmen’s Bank, a historic landmark in Phoenix and one of two buildings in the city designed by William Leonard Pereira.
Julius Shulman courtesy J. Paul Getty Trust

One of Phoenix’s notable midcentury modern buildings will be reborn as a new office for the Cuningham Group, which will move in after renovations finish on the 1951 landmark.

Designed by architectural duo William Pereira and Charles Luckman, the Farmers and Stockmen’s Bank Building blended International Style design and local influences, one of a score of such banks built in booming post-war Phoenix. Built east of downtown in 1951, the square, glass-covered main office evoked Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe, according to the city’s historical report, while the cylindrical vault, constructed with desert masonry, recalls the southwestern Native American kiva and the stonework found at Taliesin West.

Most recently operating as a Bank of America branch, the 6,000-square-foot structure was recently restored, with a focus on showcasing some of the original design elements, for the Minneapolis-based firm, which finished moving in this fall. The retrofit was made possible in part by a $140,000 city grant for historic restoration.

“For a firm such as ours that deeply respects good design, it is an honor to make this landmark our home,” said Cuningham Group Principal Nabil Abou-Haidar. “There is a clean-lined simplicity to the building that remains attractive to this day.”

Interior of the Farmers & Stockmen’s Bank building
Interior of the Farmers & Stockmen’s Bank building
Julius Shulman courtesy J. Paul Getty Trust
The mezzanine of the Farmers & Stockmen’s Bank Building
The mezzanine of the Farmers & Stockmen’s Bank Building
Julius Shulman courtesy J. Paul Getty Trust

Famous for futuristic designs such as the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco, a tapering tower that’s become a city icon, and the Brutalist, sculptural library at the University of California at Irvine, Pereira gave this ‘50s commission a streamlined facade and a similarly crisp, open interior.

“Pereira’s Modernism translates beautifully to contemporary creative-office design,” said Pete Mikelson, Cuningham Group Associate leading the design effort. “It avoids visual barriers, maximizes collaboration, and allowed us to create a variety of meeting spaces, including a conference room, video conference room as well as open collaborative work spaces.”

Despite being a half-century old, the bank building’s original layout proved ideal for its new purpose. The mezzanine serves as a “clean, open box” ideal for workstations and an enclosed glass room for meetings, while the donut-shaped vault and its round, stone-clad wall was subdivided into workspaces, with a tubular skylight added to bring light into the fortified space.

Cuningham office layout
Cuningham Office Plan
Sketches of the new Cuningham Group office in Phoenix
Sketches of the new Cuningham Group office in Phoenix