If you’re an Oklahoman, there’s probably no sight that would fill you with with more dread than a 300-foot-tall twister looming along the city skyline. But ironically, it’s a sight that future Tulsans might just take for granted, if the radical Tulsa Tornado Tower by Oklahoma architecture firm Kinslow, Keith, & Todd ever gets off the ground with plans to become the headquarters of the very first Oklahoma Weather Museum. Talk about synergy.
Think of the Tornado Tower as Tulsa’s Space Needle, complete with a revolving restaurant at the very apex of the twister. Originally just a thought exercise on a more innovative way to build a revolving restaurant, mock-titled “Dorothy’s Bar and Grill,” the Tulsa Tornado Tower was designed more as a roadside attraction (complete with artificial cows and pick-up trucks caught up in Dorothy’s architectural cyclone). But nothing came of it, other than being a fun exercise.
Earlier this year, though, a local magazine called Tulsa People came calling. They asked three Oklahoma firms to come up with concepts that could revitalize downtown Tulsa. Assigning the agency a decrepit two-story parking garage, Kinslow, Keith, & Todd pulled out their old concept for “Dorothy’s Bar & Grill” and repurposed it into a magnificent tower shaped like a tornado, complete with a weather museum, roof deck, and — yep — a revolving restaurant.
After the March issue of Tulsa People hit newsstands, support for the Tulsa Tornado Tower has gained momentum, with more and more Tulsans getting excited about it. Dr. Kerry Joels, a museum consultant who has worked with NASA and the Smithsonian, sees the Tornado Tower as the perfect base for the Oklahoma Weather Museum he’s envisioned since 2012. Scores of local weathermen have also approached the architecture firm, asking if they can install weather cameras or even have studios in the building.
The Tulsa Tornado Tower isn’t greenlit just yet. The architects behind the building say they want to figure out all of the rotating sections of the tower before applying for construction permits. Even then, the 30-story building would cost as much as $150 million. But there’s a lot of interest–and a lot of oil money–behind the idea of making the Tulsa Tornado Tower a reality.