The RSA Tower rises out of downtown Montgomery, but is not in the “Capitol Complex” as are all of Bronner’s other buildings. Thus, it faced no traditional height restriction, and no concern that its exterior lighting might overshadow the Capitol. It was to be Dr. Bronner’s crowning construction achievement. Because the legal “State Capitol Complex” extends one block wide all the way down Dexter Avenue to the Court Square fountain, our project was lucky to have escaped the designation and its restrictions.
As it started out, the Tower was to be a 16-story structure, which I felt was about the maximum that our limited small town architectural experience could deal with. But to my chagrin and consternation, every time our ace design architect, John Gandy, prepared a further developed scheme for David Bronner, he would add one or two floors. Each time we presented, I would protest to John, knowing for certain that Bronner would call us down. However, our client was so excited over the impact we would have on the downtown, he egged John on. The two of them fed on one another’s ego, and I was powerless to stop them. Our building just got taller and taller. Before the design was finalized, the pair had added eight floors and PH&J was out of its league.
John Gandy is an extremely talented designer who has one glaring fault — he can conceive but one design for any given building and come hell or high water, will not be turned from it. In the case of the RSA Tower, John realized that his scheme produced a mass that was too short and fat, and since it was psychologically impossible for him to change the concept, he did the next best thing, which was to make the building taller. The structure wound up with 23 stories plus two basement levels. It cost upwards of $80 Million.
The final design of the Tower encompassed 756,000 square feet of enclosed space plus a 47-car attached parking garage. It is 415 feet high to the top of its gold leafed spire. The building boasts eleven elevators and an escalator. The main eight passenger cars travel at 700 feet per minute and can make your ears pop.
-Charles Humphries (“Peril and Intrigue Within Architecture”)