By Julia Walker
The architecture of IBM has been enjoying a moment of high visibility. With attention trained on the preservation of Philip Johnson’s New York State Pavilion for the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, Queens has come a resurgence of interest in Eero Saarinen and Charles Eames’s neighboring IBM Pavilion, the multimedia “information machine” that seems in retrospect to have been 50 years ahead of its time. Alongside the ongoing popularity of this monument, explorations of the company’s aesthetic history, such as John Harwood’s recent book The Interface: IBM and the Transformation of Corporate Design, 1945-1976 and the interactive exhibition “Think,” held at Lincoln Center in honor of IBM’s centennial in 2011, have helped solidify IBM’s image of as an early adopter of digital spectacle. Yet before IBM became an information machine, it operated out of its modest first home, the site called simply “Plant No. 1” in Endicott, NY. It was in Endicott that Thomas J. Watson, Sr., the chairman and CEO of International Business Machines from 1914 to his death in 1956, attempted to define the architectural image of such a business, combining the hand labor of manufacturing with the intellectual work of engineering.