01 March 2008

The Abandoned Breuer

Reading the NY Times story I wrote about (below) made me wonder anew about the fate of this 1969 building by Marcel Breuer. When you're driving up or down I-95 through New Haven, CT it's a real landmark. Although now, it's got competition from another, bright blue and yellow landmark right next door: the Ikea store which was built about 4 years ago. As a matter of fact, Ikea often uses the I-95-facing fa├žade to hang humongous banners advertising their $1.99 breakfasts or $199 couches.

In 2002 there was a bit of an uproar when Ikea first showed interest in the adjoining lot
as described here by Kevin Mathews in "Design Community Architecture Discussion": The site is on land occupied by the 1969 Armstrong Building (recently known as the Pirelli building) designed by Marcel Breuer. IKEA's new prototype store is larger than previous stores (300,000 SF). The store's parking requirements have led to a proposal which removes the entire base to the rear of the of the Pirelli building and surrounds the Pirelli building with an asphalt parking lot and minimal planting. A good portion of the base of the building can be preserved with only an impact upon 80 parking spaces (out of 1.241 total). Likewise, the magnificent greenspace surrounding the building can be designed as "turf-parking" with inexpensive, accessible technology, similar to turf-parking technology used at the Westfarms Mall in Connecticut.
So, originally the building looked like this, at left, with greenspace! Hard to imagine as now it floats like a big bodiless head, bobbing on an ocean of asphalt and cars (no, "turf-parking" was not used!).

What will happen to it? – GF


Tamara said...

I had no idea that building was designed by Breuer. I've often wondered about it whenever I drive past it.

It brings to mind the Wilde building, currently owned by CIGNA Healthcare, located in Bloomfield, CT.

The building was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and featured interiors and furnishings by Florence Knoll, as well as outdoor courtyards and sculptures by Isamu Noguchi. When CIGNA acquired it, they initially planned to tear it down. Fortunately, they changed their minds.

Nathan said...

I was up at the New Haven IKEA today, and it looks like there is some substantial work being done in this building.

Does anyone know what they are up to? I would love to see this building returned to service, in some capacity. Aside from the obvious parking-related issues, I think it's in a great location.