Interview between host Bryan Toepfer, AIA, NCARB, CAPM and author Grace Ong Yan
Between the Stock Market Crash and the Vietnam War, American corporations were responsible for the construction of thousands of headquarters across the United States. Over this time, the design of corporate headquarters evolved from Beaux-Arts facades to bold modernist expressions.
Grace Ong Yan’s book Building Brands: The Architecture of Corporate Modernism (Lund Humphries, 2021) examines how clients and architects together crafted buildings to reflect their company’s brand, carefully considering consumers’ perception and their emotions towards the architecture and the messages they communicated. By focusing on four American corporate headquarters: the PSFS Building by George Howe and William Lescaze, the Johnson Wax Administration Building by Frank Lloyd Wright, Lever House by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and The Röhm & Haas Building by Pietro Belluschi, Building Brands shows how corporate modernism evolved. In the 1930s, architecture and branding were separate and distinct. By the 1960s, they were completely integrated. Drawing on interviews and original material from corporations’ archives, it examines how company leaders, together with their architects, conceived of their corporate headquarters not only as the consolidation of employee workplaces, but as architectural mediums to communicate their corporate identities and brands.
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