American Investment Co. of Illinois (c. 1955)
8251 Maryland Ave.
Date of Construction: 1955
Architect: W.A. Sarmiento for Bank Building & Equipment Corp. of America
At first glance, it may look like the roof of this structure is upside down as the strikingly inverted roof and pyramidal shape of the entire building is turned upside down, ending in points on each side elevation. The inverted concrete truss construction led to an increased interest in the design in advance of its construction. Sarmiento stated that the people in Clayton didn't like the modern design of this building at first because it wasn't conservative enough.
American Investment Co. of Illinois, estimated to cost $1.5 million, covered a full block and followed the geography of the site. Materials for the three-story building were concrete, stainless steel, glass, and stone with 60% of the structure resulting in glass. The inverted trusses are concrete and include windows shaded by concrete louvers. The third floor is setback from the roof's edge similar to a roof monitor, providing extra space in a penthouse style design. The building provides 51,542 square feet and was set to accommodate 170 employees upon opening in 1955. On the interior, a simple mobile provided the inspiration for a complex series of ceiling ridges, which along with the lighting provide texture in the entrance lobby.
Architect W.A. Sarmiento at the Bank Building & Equipment Corporation noted that this feature "opens corners and permits complete freedom of design." This was the first design that Sarmiento used the inverted truss design, but it's likely that's why he came back to the some of the design elements of this building style later. Similarly designed buildings that emerged later included the Crenshaw Savings & Loan in Los Angeles, CA (1958) and The Firestone Bank remodel in Akron, Ohio (1958).
Photo 3: Reprinted from The American Banker with Permission from SourceMedia
Photos #8-22: Fentress Photography
Photos #1-2, 4-7, 23-26: Photo Courtesy W.A. Sarmiento