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Bankers Life Building

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1939–1940, Tinsley, Higgins, Lighter, and Lyons. 711 High St.

With the renewed building activity at the end of the 1930s, the earlier “Vertical style” in skyscrapers continued, generally following the precedent set by the design of buildings within Rockefeller Center in New York. The pronounced Gothic verticality of the 1920s was replaced by a classical and more restrained approach, an approach that often incorporated elements of either the High Art International style or the popular Streamline Moderne. The Bankers Life Building is a near-perfect summation of all of these late-thirties tendencies. Its plan is symmetrical and balanced; the traditional smooth stone sheathing (dark rainbow granite at its base and cream-colored limestone above) is played off against extensive openings of glass bricks, bronze window frames, and sheet rubber employed for wall covering. The building's ornamentation ranges from molded decorative glass panels (pre-Columbian in feeling) designed by Lowell Houser and Glenn Chamberlain, depicting scenes from Iowa history, to a large low-relief panel above the auditorium entrance. Within, the decoration is at times traditional, as in the president's office and in the boardroom, while at other times it is Modern and Moderne in imagery, as in the auditorium and in the main-floor club room.

Writing Credits

Author: 
David Gebhard and Gerald Mansheim

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