Cuts Like A Knife

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South Big Bend & Dale Ave.
Richmond Heights, MO

As you tool past it, this building gives the best optical illusions.


In the small sliver of space it occupies, it is both translucent and opaque, reflective and absorptive, grounded yet floating.   It has always struck me as passively menacing, which pretty much sums up how I feel about finance, so it’s appropriate architecture for a bank.


This building went up in 1978 for United Postal Savings, and remains a bank to this day.  As you can see from this aerial view,  the architect had to work with the odd angle of Dale Avenue and a small lot.  The building itself is only 3,228 square feet, which is small for a modern commercial building.  But it packs a lot of style and attitude into a tight spot.


The brown brick creating soft curves for the lobby entrance is the only relief from the severity of the right triangle, and it feels as if they had to design a less-threatening entrance just so people could work up the nerve to enter the building.


As with so many of the mirror-glass wall buildings of the post-modern architecture style, the inhabitants tend to feel uncomfortable with being exposed and ruin the aesthetic intent with yards of metal blinds.  In this case, the vertical blinds add a consistent texture that slightly reduces the ominousness, but also hampers the effect of reflective transparency.  Then again, people have to use buildings, so the function should be given as much weight as the visual impact.

But blinds cannot take away from the architectural editorial on the fine point of this building.  Depending on the angle, it looks like a cut-throat straight razor  or a plunging stiletto.  No matter the era, finance cuts like a knife.



9 thoughts on “Cuts Like A Knife

  1. just wanted to tell you that i appreciate your site and work. keep it up.

    from a st. louis native-gone kc,

  2. You’ve got some great photos of the corner. I’ve always been incredibly ambivalent about this building. Aesthetically it is challenging and draws interest. However I’ve always had the nagging suspicion that as cool as that sharp angle looks from the outside (and in floor plans) that the reality is probably much less inspiring. I’m guessing there’s not much use for the space besides a plant and dust balls.

    If the space was integrated into the public space of the bank, it would be much more compelling to me. My guess is that it’s probably in the bank president’s office in the space behind a heavy carved mahogany desk.

  3. Yes, I love that building too! I used to bank there and always wanted to walk down to the pointy end but I don’t think the security guard would have allowed it!

  4. There are numerous banks around the metro that are built with style and pizazz. This one is among the best.

  5. I love this building! Thanks for the photos Toby. As Steve asked, what can be done to bring recognition to this building (and ones like it) and advocate for reuse – when the time comes.

  6. Yes, this building is amazing. How can people advocate for preserving places like this? It’s too late once it’s sold or a plan is made to demolish it. This would be a perfect cafe!!!

  7. I have always admired this little gem. I lived in maplewood, now in brentwood. This would make a terrific home conversion!

  8. Damn! That first pic, in particular, is persuasive, Toby. Oddly enough, I’ve driven past that building countless times without ever remarking on its structural oddity. (Possibly I’ve been too concerned with the often moronic/cutthroat traffic on Big Bend in that vicinity…)

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