Today, claass HAUS looks at a Honolulu icon.
Between 1956 and 1971, IBM commissioned more than one hundred offices, plants, and laboratories in a corporate building boom that produced some of the country's most significant Modern architecture. Orchestrated by company president Thomas Watson Jr., IBM's comprehensive (and first-of-its-kind) corporate design program encompassed everything from products and logos to office buildings and factories, reinventing the notion of corporate identity. Under the guidance of architect and industrial designer Eliot Noyes, the program assembled some of the period's greatest creative minds (including Eames, Breuer, and Mies) to create a range of modern products grounded in the company's integrated design philosophy.
Like many IBM designs of the Watson and Noyes era, the company's Honolulu headquarters embodied the technological spirit of the time. Completed in 1962, the multi-story office block is one of the city's most recognizable landmarks, its honeycomb facade a nod to both IBM technology and the tropical context. Designed by Vladimir Ossipoff, perhaps Hawai'i's most prolific twentieth-century architect, the distinctive structure stands like a giant punched card, its graphic concrete overlay a tectonic expression of the company's modern ethos.
Born in Russia and raised in Japan, Vladimir Ossipoff emigrated to the United States during the 1920s. After receiving an architecture degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1931, Ossipoff packed his bags for Honolulu where a post-statehood surge in development offered plenty of opportunity for a young, skilled architect. One of Ossipoff's most enduring designs, the IBM building exploits many of Modernism's central tenets- a connection to nature, minimal structure, and an open plan- while still communicating a specific sense of time and place. A bold visual statement, the multi-story, compact cube is sheathed in a sculptural precast concrete brise soleil that acts as both a stylistic overture and a practical climatic consideration. A clear reference to IBM punched card technology, the repetitive geometric grille protects the building's expansive glazing, minimizing sunlight and heat and preventing birds from nesting. It is a striking solution to the challenges of the local context with Ossipoff using modern technology and deceptively simple forms to adapt high modernism to tropical surroundings.
After narrowly escaping the wrecking ball in 2008, Honolulu's iconic IBM building recently underwent a $24 million renovation (see it here), securing its future as a city landmark. Now home to the Howard Hughes Corporation, the building continues to serve as a corporate gateway, its modernist legacy left largely intact.
You can read more about IBM's corporate design program here.
Image at top:
By Daniel Ramirez from Honolulu, USA (IBM Building) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
This architectural historian cannot stop thinking about buildings, food, and that vintage rug she found online.