Defining Downtown at Mid-Century:

The Architecture of the Bank Building & Equipment Corporation of America

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From its start as a small cabinet-making shop in a St. Louis back alley in 1913, cousins Joseph B. Gander and Louis Orabka built a company over several decades to become the foremost design-build firm of the mid-twentieth century known as the Bank Building & Equipment Corporation of America.  Designing and constructing over 4,000 projects through 1962, the company pioneered trend-setting styles of modern architecture, technological innovations in banking and design, and perfected using the design-build process throughout the United States.  The company’s significant rise to prominence gained its strength from the trust and visionary partnership between the charismatic and visionary owner, Joseph B. Gander, and creative ingénue Chief of Design, Wenceslao A. Sarmiento.


“Architecture is the art to shelter man’s activities with a balance of engineering and sculpture…”

            - W.A. Sarmiento

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Show me the money!


First Security Bank
Salt Lake City, Utah

With the construction of the First Security Bank building in 1955, it marked an important end to more than twenty difficult years since the great depression for downtown Salt Lake City and Utah. It signified a new beginning and as such, it’s modern International design also represented a brighter hope for the future.

Jamaica Savings, Elmhurst Branch
Queens, New York City, New York

The Elmhurst Branch was commissioned in 1966, the year the bank was celebrating its centennial, and completed by 1968. Seeking a unique design that would stand out on Queens Boulevard among urban congestion, a hyperbolic paraboloid of thin-shell reinforced concrete that covered a column-free interior was chosen.

Phoenix Financial Center
Phoenix, Arizona

The landmark Phoenix Financial Center complex consists of three buildings with a geometric theme of circles, arcs, and parabolas or inverted arches. Started in 1964, it was expanded in 1970, but never realized to it’s full original plan for two towers and residential buildings. Today, it’s an anchor of the Central Ave. business district.


“Revolutions are mass movements and trends, not specific attitude of mind in individual beings. A man can be a revolutionary but not a revolution.”

- From Manifest of Expression of Principles, 1947, signed by W.A. Sarmiento and other Peruvian architects and students