Harry Wolf

Harry Wolf

Porto, Portugal


NCNB National Bank

Just as ancient man's works manifested his connection with the earth, with time, place and culture; with nature and the cosmos, so then this project attempts to recapture, in a neo-modern way this mediating role of architecture in the urban setting. We have searched carefully for the special qualities of Tampa, sought to understand, respect, and where possible, evoke recollections appropriately singular to this city, to this place and to this time.

The cylinder is linked to the urban grid by the cubic volumes of the banking hall which approximate the height of the base of the building opposite it, provide a breathing space between the two and mediate the scale from pedestrian to tower. Located at a pivotal point in the fabric of the city, the cylinder, archetype of tower, evokes metaphor of lighthouse or citadel guarding to the entrance to the city. It's positioning holds the urban corner and places it at the head of this new public River Garden. Through the use of geometry, number, proportion and material there is an aspiration to connect this building to time, place and culture.

Water also forms the centerpiece for the garden's two private spots. The figure-ground of the grass and paving reverses so that areas are hard where the principal walks are, and grass is greatest in the relaxed areas between. Far from being a nightmare of trimming, the grass is intended, with time, to creep over the stones.

It is the resolution of the geometry of the river as it intersects the grid of the city that is the genesis for this tying together of land and man-form, and the precedence of the Islamic geometry of the Moorish traditions of Florida that give insight into the division of the geometry as well the geometric veil that is stretched over the entire site. Grass, pavement, water and trees are interwoven to create a tapestry which, in its final form speaks quietly to the delightful onion-domed, turn of the century Plant Hotel (now Tampa University) across the river.

There is an intention here to allow these layers of narrative content, along with a precise geometric order, to inform and suffuse the building-to make a building that while pure and austere can avoid corporate sterility with a subtle complexity of meaning.

At each state of proximity, through modulation of scale, proportion and detail, the design seeks to re-establish the importance of the relationship between man and nature and, thereby, a heightened appreciation of today's and tomorrow's issues on the environment.

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Status: Built
Location: Tampa, FL, US
My Role: Architect