In response to a growing company's request for office space, Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates developed a master plan that would allow the incremental addition of floor space over time. The initial design included nine identical buildings arranged in a parallelogram, totaling 1.2 million square feet. Only three of the buildings were constructed in the initial phase, and the expansion plan was never fulfilled. The trio is known as "The Pyramids" for their simple geometry and slanting glass facades.
At first glance, the buildings do not appear to relate directly to their context, but the architects developed the iconic form according to site-specific parameters. Two concrete core walls greet the interstate highways bounding the site to the north and west. To the south, sloped walls of glass open onto the landscape. From a distance, the buildings stand out as a series of reductive forms on the flat terrain. The colossal, poured concrete walls reach eleven stories, dwarfing the human scale. Their reductive exteriors belie the smaller, warmer quality of the offices within.
The poured concrete structure is comprised of floor slabs supported by cylindrical columns on a 30 foot grid. Crossing the vast parking lot, employees enter the buildings through voids in the blank faces of the core walls. The 14 feet wide walls house the bathrooms, elevators, and service functions, resulting in an uninterrupted floor plan at each level. Double height bridges of cast concrete span the gaps between individual buildings, allowing occupants to circulate the complex at the second and third floors.
Roche and Dinkeloo devised the sloped form in response to programmatic requirements. The floor plates vary in size to house a range of departments within the company. To reduce elevator usage, the greater portion of the population occupies the lowest and largest floors, including the cafeteria, while the executives share the topmost. The slanted glass walls stretch from the floor to the ceiling at each level, offering greater glazed surface area than vertically oriented windows. A fissure between the concrete core walls admits northern light into the open offices.
52 foot high partitions divide the space into individual areas without compromising views or light. They are clad in reflective steel to diminish the visual presence of the partitions. Fluorescent lighting installed at regular intervals is diffused by stippled plastic ceiling panels, supplementing the natural light.
The Museum of the City of New York recently featured an exhibition of Roche's work. Roche and Dinkeloo began their partnership while heading the firm of Eero Saarinen following his death in 1961. They are known for several innovative structures of glass and concrete, including the Knights of Columbus Building and the Ford Foundation Headquarters.