BOK Center revitalizes Tulsa’s downtown

Tulsa, OK, USA

The BOK Center brings an iconic landmark to the heart of downtown Tulsa as part of the city’s Vision 2025 long-range development plan. The events arena is a 19,000-seat sports and entertainment venue that takes inspiration from the nearby Arkansas River, Tulsa’s highways, and recalls Tulsa’s Native American heritage. Since the opening of the arena in 2008, the project has generated $350 million of economic impact to this mid-western city. 

$350 million
economic impact to the city of Tulsa within the first decade

Inspiration from local surroundings

The design of the BOK Center reflects the city’s wish for an arena with a bold architectural image. The BOK Center’s modern design is a sweeping spiral of stainless steel and glass walls that tilt inward as they swirl around the arena. Drawing from the natural and built surroundings, the architectural language evokes the bend of the Arkansas River and the arc of Tulsa’s highways. The building’s curving form also recalls Tulsa’s Native American heritage by alluding to the round tribal dwellings once built in some Midwestern states. 

“The building will not only serve as a defining symbol of the importance of civic design... but as a gathering place that engages our imagination and spurs future development in downtown Tulsa.”
Fred Clarke, FAIA, JIA, RIBA

Iconic curtain wall becomes a distinguishing feature 

Wrapping the southern façade of the BOK Center is a curving glass wall 180 meters (600 feet) in length. The glass curtainwall contains 1,600 glass panels and reaches more than 30 meters (100 feet) above grade. Though the large expanse of glass appears transparent, about half of the glass is covered in a subtle ceramic frit pattern to prevent glare. The glass wall fills the building with light during the day. Awash in color at night, the glass curtainwall reveals one of its most exciting features: a system of 66 integrated metal halide lamps that can glow in 1,000 different hues. 

Art that celebrates a time and place

The BOK Center incorporates several site-specific artworks commissioned for the building: Dreamland, a multi-story painting of horses by celebrated Tulsa and New York City painter Joe Andoe; Stratum, a cloud-like installation by sculptors Kendall Buster and Siemon Allen; Realms, four 7-meter (22-foot) diameter medallions embedded in the terrazzo floors by Cherokee Nation father and son Bill and Demos Glass; and The Tallgrass Prairies, 25 scenes of the Tulsa prairie by local painter Mark Lewis. 

More About the Project

Principal Collaborators

  • Architect of Record: Odell Associates / Matrix Service Company
  • Structural Engineer: Thornton Tomasetti Group
  • MEP Engineer: Matrix Service Company

Project Information

  • Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA
  • Client: City of Tulsa
  • Size: 587,000 sq. ft. / 54,500 sq. m.
  • Completion: 2008
  • Firm Role: Design Architect


  • 2011, Design Award, AIA New England
  • 2009, Innovative Design in Engineering and Architecture with Structural Steel Award, American Institute of Steel Construction
  • Principal Project Photography: Jeff Goldberg / ESTO