Cuningham Group Architecture, Inc. (Cuningham Group®) has leased the historic Farmers & Stockmens Bank building and made the Mid-Century Modern landmark its new Phoenix office. The approximately 6,000-square-foot building, at 5001 E. Washington Street, was designed by the internationally famous architectural team of Pereira & Luckman in 1951. It is certified a historic structure by the City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Office. Cuningham Group will move into building when it completes interior renovations in the fall of this year.
“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, AIA. “There is a clean-lined simplicity to the building that remains attractive to this day. It is certainly an approach we bring forward in contemporary architecture for our clients, and in our other offices around the world.”
The original landmark was captured by famed architectural photographer Julius Shulman in images now controlled by J. Paul Getty Trust.
Cuningham Group’s main headquarters is in Minneapolis. Its Phoenix office which includes close to 20 architects and interior designers specializes in healthcare projects locally and internationally along with, multifamily and senior living projects, among other project types.
The Farmers & Stockmen’s Bank is one of just two Phoenix structures by William Leonard Pereira. The architect is famous for the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco, the masterplan for the City of Irvine, and (with Paul Williams and Welton Becket) the jet-age “Theme Building” at Los Angeles International Airport.
Cuningham Group’s Interior Design
“Pereira’s Modernism translates beautifully to contemporary creative-office design,” said Pete Mikelson, AIA, LEED AP, 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.”
One of its most stunning features is the mezzanine which looked over the original bank lobby. Mikelson said this “clean, open box” provided an excellent separate space for work stations, meeting space and an enclosed glass box used for client meetings.
Another dramatic feature is the “donut-shaped” bank vault – seen as the distinctive, round, stone-clad wall on the exterior.
“It’s a long, curved room we have broken into different spaces,” said Mikelson. “The historic vault door will stay in place. The stone-walled room is completely solid, with no windows, although the City did allow us to add tubular skylights to bring light through the roof.”
Three of the four walls of the main building have full-height glazing, allowing plenty of daylight. The Cuningham Group team added interior solar-control devices, bouncing sunlight up the ceiling for an optimum mix of daylight and shade. The stone flooring was removed years ago but the stone exterior remains, as well as an interior stone wall.
Cuningham Group is leasing the landmark from owners Mike and Gary Smith, owners of the Phoenix-based Jokake Companies, which acquired the property and in partnership with the City of Phoenix restored the exterior to its historic designs in 2015.
“We are delighted we were able to save the historic property,” said Jill Clements, president of Jokake Real Estate Services. “There are not many historic buildings left in the Phoenix area. So when we were able to save this one, we were thrilled. The Smiths are happy to be working with such a prestigious architectural firm as Cuningham Group and look forward to their long-term tenancy at the property.”
History of the Building
Phoenix designated the building an historic property. In July, 2014, the City approved $140,000 in grant funding so the owners could restore it to its original look.
“We were excited when the current owners said they wanted to restore the 1950s appearance,” said Phoenix Historic Preservation Officer Kevin Weight. “I’m optimistic it will all go well.”
Despite alterations, such as glass panels replaced with stucco, Weight said the original architecture and international style of the building make it distinct. Pereira’s design was influenced by architects Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.