CHAPTER 4


ON THE WAVE OF A RISING ECONOMY

INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES, 1964

Click on the image to enlarge.

IBM Building,
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1964.
Photo, nnp, nd.

The first high-rise office building we designed was for IBM. It was the practice of IBM to program the space they needed in a certain location, find the land, then arrange with a developer to take over and use the strength of the IBM lease to finance the venture.

IBM was conscious of its public image as projected in the sophistication of its equipment, packaging, and buildings. IBM reserved the right to select the architect and to approve the design of its new facilities. This activity was handled from the IBM Regional Real Estate Office in Chicago, and Terkuhle made friends with the head of the IBM Real Estate Department. We were chosen to be the architects for several small IBM office buildings in Mobile, Alabama; Nashville, Tennessee; Jackson, Mississippi; Trenton, New Jersey; and later on in Gaithersburg, Maryland; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and the Computer Manufacturing Plant and offices in Burlington, Vermont. On all of these projects, we worked with the young staff architect for IBM Edward Farrow, who along with all other IBM executives, always wore dark blue suits and striped ties. We became good friends with Farrow.

We were selected to design their major office building in a section of Pittsburgh called the Golden Triangle, located near the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers. The owner was the Equitable Life Assurance Society of New York, and IBM would be the major tenant. Equitable had already built two tremendous stainless steel office buildings in the Triangle, called the Renaissance of Pittsburgh. They retained as their master planner and advisor the architect Max Abramowitz of New York, partner of Wallace Harrison, architect for the Rockefeller Center. Our design team was composed of John Skilling of Seattle, structural engineer, and Carey Gamble who would handle the mechanical, electrical, and air-conditioning. I tried to design a building where the needs of the client, the architecture, and the engineering would all be totally integrated and where each discipline would influence the design solution from the beginning. The result, an honest expression of all three influences.

The availability of jet airplane travel made it possible for us to carry out our design efforts. After the New Orleans airport runway was lengthened, it was possible to fly back and forth quickly by jet from New Orleans to Skilling in Seattle, to IBM in Chicago, to Equitable Life in New York, and to the site itself in Pittsburgh.

 

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