Rivergate Tower was an instant downtown Tampa landmark when it was built for NCNB bank in the late 1980s for $150 million.
Given its shape, and Tampa’s history as the home of an Anheuser-Busch brewery (now closed), the building became known as the “Beer Can Building.” Harry Wolf, FAIA, designed the skyscraper to reflect the proportions of the Fibonacci sequence, a mathematical concept in which each number is the sum of the two preceding numbers.
The building overlooks Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, which is where Curtis Hixon Hall once stood, between Ashley Street and the Hillsborough River. Plant Hall at the University of Tampa, with its famous minarets, is just across the river. The new Tampa Museum of Art is on the north side of the park, and the Rivergate Tower on the south side. Kiley Garden, a 3-acre plaza featuring grids of concrete and grass, is another highlight of the park, although it no longer has the crape myrtles that once provided a shady oasis on hot Tampa afternoons. It sits atop the parking structure that serves the tower.
Standing next to the Beer Can Building are twin six-story structures known as The Cube, also designed by Wolf, a native North Carolinian who went to Georgia Tech and is based in Los Angeles. The Cube houses the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, among other amenities, and is a popular downtown gathering spot.
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The main space is decorated with modernist furnishings – at one time red, they have been replaced by black chairs and tables. It has a large window with post-and-beam framing that surrounds the six-story height of the main atrium and provides a view of the tower.
Wolf’s 31-story, 454-foot-tall, limestone-clad Rivergate Tower received the prestigious AIA National Honors Award in 1993, voted by AIA member architects. It is one of the tallest limestone buildings in the world, with the stone coming from Texas and France.
Wolf Architecture, founded in 1966, describes it as a “cast-in-place, reinforced concrete tower with twin 6-story banking halls framed by welded steel vierendeel trusses.”
It reflects a modernist period in Tampa’s architectural history. Now traditional architecture is battling with the contemporary modernist influence.
The complex received a “modern update” in 2017 to better serve the needs of an increasingly mobile business environment.
“Florida Buildings I Love” is Harold Bubil’s homage to the Sunshine State’s built environment. This article originally ran on June 1, 2019.
This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Buildings I Love, Harold Bubil: No. 125: Rivergate Tower, 1988, Tampa