01 March 2008

Mid-Century Modern Corporate Campuses: their predicament mirrors those of MCM houses, but on a colossal scale

In tomorrow's New York Times Westchester (and the region) section, David W. Dunlap has written (and produced the very good photos for) an interesting story on the present states of use and disuse of some of the tristate area's immense and architecturally significant corporate headquarters. Shortly following WWII, open land in the suburbs – former farms and pastures and, in PepsiCo's case, a polo club – became corporate campuses, whose centerpieces of buildings were often designed by some of the luminaries of Modern architecture. Some of the big businesses have changed – downsized, merged – but others have hung on to and are thriving in their original locations. Two examples of the latter are PepsiCo in Purchase, NY, designed in 1965 by Edward Durrell Stone, and IBM's Yorktown Heights, NY research center designed by Eero Saarinen, which is so thoughtfully described and photographed by Mr. Dunlap.

The story opens with a profile of another, less fortunate Saarinen-designed corporate complex in New Jersey, this one for Bell Laboratories. Dunlap describes it thus: "The main building, with 1.675 million square feet of space, is organized into four pavilions set among atriums and linked by sky bridges. The perimeter circulation pattern leaves few offices with their own windows. Concrete walls divide many spaces." Interesting-sounding, but not nearly as elegant, warm and inviting as he describes IBM's research center - reading the last third of the article made me want to take up residence there! Read "The Office as Architectural Touchstone" here.– GF

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