PepsiCo Headquarters Duo: SOM, 1960 and E.D. Stone, 1972
July 2, 2020
As the Pepsi-Cola company grew to international prominence in the mid-20th century, it contributed two architectural landmarks to our DOCOMOMO US/NY Tri-state region. Its modestly sized and elegantly detailed 1960 headquarters on Manhattan’s Park Avenue was followed only 12 years later by a very different complex on vast acreage in suburban Purchase, New York.
“Simplicity and scale lend Pepsi’s building remarkable presence for its size,” says Architectural Forum’s March 1960 article on the company’s 128,000-square-foot Park Avenue building by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. The emphasis in that press coverage is on how that simplicity and scale were attributable to an extraordinarily refined curtain wall. Also cited as essential were the uniform vertical blinds behind the glass, identified as integral to the building’s design. While later writings on the building assign design credit to Gordon Bunshaft and Natalie de Blois, the 1960 article follows SOM policy of that time by naming no individuals in the firm. To read the article go to the usmodernist.org/library page for Architectural Forum, open the PDF for March 1960 and jump to page 102.
By deciding to move to the suburbs, PepsiCo rejected pleas from New York mayor John Lindsay to stay put. Their Park Avenue building soon found a very appropriate occupant, however: the New York offices of Olivetti, the Italian office equipment company known for advanced industrial design and for commissioning buildings by leading Modern architects.
PepsiCo’s 1972 headquarters, designed by Edward Durell Stone, embodies a radically opposed view of corporate operations and image. Its 112-acre site, a former polo club, is directly across the road from a notable showcase of 1960s Modernism, the State University of New York at Purchase. The offices are housed in seven square three-story structures, linked at their corners and organized in rigorous symmetry around landscaped courts. The buildings’ upper floors project in inverted-ziggurat configuration to shade continuous bands of windows below. Patterns molded into their precast concrete cladding hint at Middle Eastern and Art Deco precedents. To read the article go to the usmodernist.org/library page for Architectural Record, open the PDF for February 1972 and jump to page 113.
From the outset the surrounding well-landscaped acreage has been the setting for some 45 major works of Modern outdoor sculpture, with prominent pieces by Alexander Calder, Henry Moore, Jean Dubuffet, and others. Under normal circumstances, these grounds are open to the public on weekends in the warmer months as a sculpture garden of international stature.
—John Morris Dixon