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Wells Fargo Center

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National Bank of Commerce
1972–1976, I.M. Pei. 1248 O St.
  • View northwest (Photograph by Peter Olshavsky)
  • Lobby (Photograph by Peter Olshavsky)

In the heart of downtown Lincoln, the site of the Wells Fargo Center has been occupied by a bank for more than a century. Originally the National Bank of Commerce, the building is buff-colored, board-formed poured-in-place concrete, a choice undoubtedly informed by Pei’s contemporaneous Brutalist work at L’Enfant Plaza in the District of Columbia. Here, the twelve-story building extends the entire length of the 300-foot block, its south side dominated by the stack of seventy-five-foot wide, column-free floor plates. This is anchored by a tall opaque spine on the west punctuated by flush windows on the upper floors of the wall. The dramatic east facade consists of a structural grid of heavily recessed windows that block direct solar exposure and are animated by a play of shade and shadow over the course of the day. A glass wall at the base of the east facade provides a strong visual connection to the adjacent sidewalk and streets.

The ground level of the building provides an imaginative pedestrian experience that allows a seamless interior passage from O Street on the south to P Street on the north. Overlooking a primary traffic intersection, the south outdoor plaza gives a frontal approach to the main floor beneath a dramatic sixty-foot-high cantilever supporting offices above while holding the street edge. Beyond is a tall, glass- enclosed garden court with ficus trees, green plantings, and benches. After passing under a bridge that directs pedestrians laterally to the elevator core, the court opens to a quiet and intimate two-story banking hall. The hall is lined with tellers’ counters, work centers, and check writing stands of cast-in-place concrete with black-glass countertops, oak trim, and brass details. A small version of the south entry provides access at the north outdoor plaza that faces the university. Experientially, this carefully orchestrated progression through the bank suggests a public sidewalk brought indoors yet still connected visually to the urban environment outside.


Jodidio, Philip, and Janet Adams Strong. I.M. Pei: Complete Works. New York: Rizzoli, 2008.

Writing Credits

H. Keith Sawyers
Peter Olshavsky
H. Keith Sawyers
Peter Olshavsky



  • 1972

    Design and construction

What's Nearby


H. Keith Sawyers, Peter Olshavsky, H. Keith Sawyers, Peter Olshavsky, "Wells Fargo Center", [Lincoln, Nebraska], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

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