The College Life Insurance Company Headquarters in Indianapolis (1967-71) [Image: College Life Insurance Co.] was the first example of the new corporate headquarters type. Located, like many of KRJD’s corporate buildings, along an interstate highway, it makes no attempt for contextual presence. The master plan simply placed four equal diamond-shaped blocks on the site, one dedicated to headquarters functions, and three to parking. The block dedicated to housing people was conceived as a matrix of nine pyramid-shaped buildings, each with an equal-size square footprint connected to others by bridges and tunnels. Three of these, glad with mirrored glass wall eventually got built. Recalling forms created by the great eighteenth-century visionary architect Étienne-Louis Boullée they seem to announce that periods of dramatic change require big and bold architecture.
The four-story, 2.2-million-square-foot Union Carbide Corporation World Headquarters building (1976-82), tucked in a wooded site in Danbury, Connecticution was perhaps the most extreme case of this new paradigm in which architecture was conceived no longer as a celebration of corporate image but simply as a facilitator of conducting business. [Image: Union Carbide HQ. Models depicting different office interiors] In fact, the building is never experienced from without, since the parking forms the building’s spine. An employer simply drives into the building and finds a parking spot next to his or her office without ever having to wither weather, even.
KRJD’s design process began with a series of interviews that led to a compilation of data about the working organization and personal tastes of the workforce. The research phase included writing a computer program to coordinate the office decors based on individual preferences. The spatial planning aimed at increasing worker efficiency, making architecture an inseparable part of conducting business.
Adapted from Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen, ed. Kevin Roche: Architecture as an Environment (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011)
About the Author
Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen is an Associate Professor at Yale University’s School of Architecture, Her scholarly work focuses on twentieth-century European and American architecture with interest in the genesis and meaning of architectural form within various national and historical contexts. Ms. Pelkonen is the author of Achtung Architektur! Image and Phantasm in Contemporary Austrian Architecture (MIT Press, 1996) and Alvar Aalto: Architecture, Modernity and Geopolitics (Yale University Press, 2009); a coeditor of Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future (Yale, 2006) and Architecture + Art: New Visions, New Strategies (Aalto Academy, 2007); and editor of Kevin Roche: Architecture as Environment (Yale, 2011). Her articles have appeared in various publications, including Daidalos, Log, and Perspecta. Prior to coming to Yale, Ms. Pelkonen worked in a number of European firms, most notably with Reima and Raili Pietilä, Architects, in Helsinki, Finland, and Volker Giencke, Architects, in Graz, Austria. She is currently a design associate with Turner Brooks Architects, where she has collaborated on such projects as the Gilder Boathouse for Yale and the Pelkonen/Brooks residence. She received an M.Arch. from the Tampere University of Technology, Finland, an M.E.D. from Yale University, and a Ph.D. from Columbia University.