Wednesday, September 26, 2007

2007: An Architectural Odyssey

This is the south elevation of the beautiful John Deere World Headquarters in Moline, Illinois. It's about an hour or so east of the Yum Yum Farm, and during our visit with our amazing architect, we wanted to see at least one of the Upper Midwest's architectural masterpieces. The Deere headquarters certainly did not disappoint! Designed by Eero Saarinen in 1959 (or so), this steel and glass structure sits in a beautiful wooded area, full of oaks and, of course, deer. The deer, we discovered, are not actors, but were so impressed with Saarinen's design that they decided to make the surrounding woodland their home. Sadly, the architect did not live to see this building completed. He died in 1961, 3 years prior to its opening. You may recognize him via his other buildings, which included the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, and the TWA terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Jamaica, Queens, New York.

This photo of an office on an upper floor shows the interplay between the rigid geometry of Saarinen's building, and the gentle dance being performed outside by the colors and forms of trees, sky, water and sun. The extensive use of glass in the structure brings the outside in throughout the entire building (think Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, or Phillip Johnson), creating a very pleasant work environment and adding a lightness to a very sturdy structure. Those lucky enough to work in this building are conspicuously proud of it, and their company's commitment to maintaining it in a manner true to its original design is impressive and laudible. Guess what color our tractor is going to be?
"I don't know, I think it would look great in green and yellow. Rust is so...1961." Here's that amazing architect I mentioned earlier, John DeForest (right), visiting with our tour guide, who generously gave his time to show us around this beautiful facility. This was the first building cloaked in Corten steel, which, if I remember correctly from eavesdropping on the conversation pictured, is steel, coated with nickel, and coated with steel. The outer steel rusts, but creates a type of protective coating over the other layers. Or something like that. This process has given the building a patina that blends in well with the surroundings in any season.
Remember that remark about bringing the outside in? Well, they literally did it here in the west addition, constructed in 1978. Architect Kevin Roche, who took over the original project after Saarinen's passing, created this addition which honors the original, and then some! While admiring this atrium, our tour guide noted the boulders, where they keep the spare key to the building. Just kidding.

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