This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
T h e Cor porat ion i n t h e Su b u rbs
“A development that bespeaks orderliness, spaciousness, and well-being”
As postwar American corporations considered their futures in an expanding economic era, their facilities were a fundamental part of the business equation. Until the 1940s, corporate management offices had existed in two places. First, management resided in central business districts to be close to bankers and insurance companies, often in tall office buildings. In a few of those cases, corporations built downtown skyscrapers for themselves, but notably, the buildings were usually not entirely occupied by the corporate staffs but also rented to other tenants—a handy combination of public relations and income-generating investment.1 Second, corporate management resided in manufacturing works, to be close to production. Less well known and less acknowledged in the history of business buildings, factory offices nonetheless constituted a substantive sector of management locations. By the postwar era, in both central business districts and factory sites, large corporate offices were often in various and separate buildings and poorly integrated with one another. Many corporate management staffs remained in or relocated to established central business districts during the decades after World War II,
The specific forms of the corporate campus. Some built new. underground utility infrastructure. consolidated management headquarters near center city factory sites. this was unknown territory for large management buildings. the corporate estate. In varying proportions. and the office park that emerged from the imperatives of managerial capitalism share a consistently pastoral sheen that materialized from common circumstances. Unlike central city buildings occupying entire lots. such as the Johnson Wax headquarters in Racine. A range of actual and perceptual drawbacks of the city center trumped its once well-established advantages. corporations revisited ideas from production facilities in the first decades of the twentieth century that used the landscape surround as a strategic corporate tool to control labor and manipulate public opinion. driveways. designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. and office parks. These contextual forces resolved around a distinct pastoral conception of the suburban management workplace. and the buildings within them were set back from surrounding roads. Unlike the central business district with established corporate offices. cities. shrubs. and the impressive modernity of skyscrapers. While ideas about business. occupying large tracts of property. the impetus to work through all these obstacles had to be considerable. To do so. the setback contained parking. In the process. As corporations promoted the advantages of the urban edge. properties were ample.building new downtown buildings or occupying speculative ones. consolidated management offices. which had the advantage of synergistic connectedness to other businesses. Wisconsin. corporate estates. Nonetheless a significant set of companies chose the suburbs for new. For the inherently conservative corporate enterprise. a new building type of significant size. verdant landscape of trees. and shaped by issues of public relations and corporate identity. and American landscapes framed pastoral capitalism (as discussed in chapter 1). 20 Chapter 2 . Corporations had to respond to the equivocation of their new neighbors since locals perceived large business buildings as incongruous with conventional residential suburbs. ample. and an obvious. and lawn. corporations still had to address the status aspirations of the corporate management employees. palpability of power brokers’ pulse. they had to invent the form of the suburban management facility. Corporations had to decide to eschew the city center. another set of more specific contexts impelled the formation of corporate campuses. they also had to find a suitable place within it. while satisfying the goals of efficiency and productivity that their shareholders and corporate boards demanded. In opting out of the central business district.
once celebrated as emblems of progress and economic prowess.3 The public health movement of the Progressive Era also identified factories as noxious. Although the corporate exodus is commonly characterized as an abandonment of the central business district.4 By the mid-twentieth century.1). An exceptional concern of the postwar era. by the mid-twentieth century. and class and ethnic conflicts. (Courtesy of General Electric Archives. became symbols of manual labor and the working class (figure 2. the noise and congestion of dense urban cores. While such factory complexes may have once signaled industrial dominance. civil defense. industrial landscapes. Schenectady Museum) T h e C o r p o r at i o n i n t h e S u b u r b s 21 . a “basic pattern of escapism from capitalist reality” underlay the creation of American suburbs with the “Arcadian look.1 The General Electric works in Schenectady. New York. General Electric’s team of Nobel Prize–winning scientists worked in the middle of the increasingly poorly regarded manufacturing site. noxious effluents from smokestacks and drainage pipes and their association with blue-collar labor made them unacceptable to white-collar managers. In the first decades of the twentieth century. unhealthy environments. corporate managers were propelled to the pastoral urban periphery by a distaste for the sensory and social realities of industrial production. the first corporations that built suburban workplaces exclusively for management relocated their personnel from factories. corporations wanted to distance their 2.”2 Like many suburban dwellers before them (and many executives were themselves suburban home owners). added to these motives and incited the first wave of what came to be known as the corporate exodus. in the 1940s.Leaving the City Center As the economic geographer Richard Walker has astutely discerned.
General Electric. and General Motors wanted to move their estimable scientists and research units out of industrial situations. Companies such as AT&T.management echelons from what they considered to be the unsavory social and physical situation of the manufacturing plants they controlled. But the tight conditions of the prestigious central business district could not accommodate the technologically complicated laboratories. The suburban spaciousness of the corporate campus 22 Chapter 2 . the initial sector of the corporate hierarchy to migrate to the suburbs was not the top echelon but rather middle management research divisions. a legacy of earlier industrial workshops attached to production facilities (discussed in detail in chapter 3). Although scientists were ascendant in the managerial capitalist hierarchy. Thus. they worked at factory sites.
Detaching management personnel from industrial sites was as typical a pattern of the suburbanization of corporate management as was the exodus of corporations from the buildings of the central business district. Fortune reported that corporations considered new suburban management enclaves “in the 2.2 The 1950s Deere & Company headquarters office in Moline. Illinois (figure 2. By 1949 they found Manhattan saddled with significant “discomforts caused by dirt. Illinois) T h e C o r p o r at i o n i n t h e S u b u r b s 23 .5 While the downtown was the celebrated location of corporate business. an inefficient arrangement by any business reckoning. the corporation occupied leased office space in a single Manhattan office building. it was also jam-packed.8 In addition. the objection to industrial settings also influenced their removal to pastoral situations. . and the ever increasing problem of traffic congestion” and began to look toward the New York City periphery.6 As early as 1945.both resolved infrastructural demands and created a prestigious ambience for the facilities. . . businesses demanded flexible office configurations in which partitions could be easily moved and employees added and shifted around. and wartime materials restrictions severely limited construction. When Deere & Company president William Hewitt assumed the leadership in 1955 of the 118-year-old firm. In addition. Illinois. Deere & Company relocated its executives to the new suburban Administrative Center on an 800-acre site beyond the edge of town in 1963. and many are called upon to establish new quarters. (Courtesy of Deere & Company. noise. By 1945.2). dust. unable to find sufficient space in Manhattan. In 1921. Moline. the decision created much internal controversy. his initial and most transformative action was to remove himself and his executives from the company’s sprawling factories along the Mississippi in central Moline. multiple floors in three different buildings housed 1. factory buildings and workers surrounded the executive offices. businesses stretched the limits of scarce office space.300 corporate employees. But Hewitt believed that this was an essential part of creating the dominant global corporation that Deere & Company became within a decade.”7 General Foods illustrates the combined impact of expanding headquarters staff and postwar spatial constraints in central business districts. Architectural Record reported on competition in the central business districts: “Office buildings are crowded. labor relations played a key role in the decision to seek the suburbs. top quality space is at a premium. Because the executive leadership had always resided at the industrial site. Since many top-ranked executives of leading industrial companies worked in manufacturing plants as well. In such a situation tenants are forced to look ahead. With postwar economic growth in full gear. The size of corporate staffs doubled between 1942 and 1952. In 1946 General Foods. Few new office buildings had appeared during the Great Depression. and room for expansion is all but impossible to find. The late 1940s and early 1950s was an era of assertive unions. scouted locations as far away as the Midwest. but the Fortune 500 company determined that it needed to remain close to its New York bankers. In a center city industrial swath along the Mississippi River. in the decade after the World War II. and each employee required more room than their prewar counterparts.
a trendsetting corporate campus outside of Detroit. “There is no known military defense against the atomic bomb itself. one of the plan’s guiding principles was. “It’s an older generation in charge trying to re-establish a setting that seems to be more comfortable. As one executive described in 1952. bluntly. including “business management.” enjoined: “Today urban dispersal appears to be the only effective means of minimizing the effects of atomic bombing. a finding that was upheld in court. “In the event of future aerial bombardment. In 1949 President Truman’s National Security Resources Board issued National Security Factors in Industrial Location. In a similar vein. . Some companies are reluctant to hire a large proportion of Negro and Puerto Rican help. except space.” in patriotic.10 Particularly for support staffs.11 By the 1960s.” while his urban employees came “from communities very different in class and ethnicity. such planning would provide a ‘dispersion’ factor. the editor’s introduction to the December 1950 issue of Architectural Record. the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that the hiring policies of suburban companies were discriminatory. . secretaries and receptionists were not unionized. and corporations had an interest in separating them from union strongholds in factory sites and removing them from downtowns. their quest for employees of “a better type” helped motivate suburban relocations (figure 2.”9 Doubling in numbers in the 1950s.15 Corporations and their planning and design consultants responded to the call for dispersal. the increasing diversity of the center city labor pool alarmed corporate managers. . The architect Eliel Saarinen authored a 1942 master plan for the Detroit metropolitan region. We can identify this means of defense with measures for making our cities better places to work and live. between unionized workers and unorganized office personnel. which stated. the Justice Department considered filing federal discrimination charges against corporations that planned suburban moves. .” The report couched the decentralization of industrial concentrations and central business districts.hope that this will reduce friction .13 A New York City economic development administrator explained to the New York Times in 1971 that the “executive decision maker” lived in a homogeneous “ethnic and class community.3).”14 A circumstance particular to the postwar period also influenced the suburbanization of corporate management: the pervasive context of civil defense. Fortune minced no words: “New York is becoming an increasingly Negro and Puerto Rican city. “City Planning and Civil Defense.”16 Saarinen later worked on the initial planning and design of the General Motors Technical Center.” The administrator continued.”12 By 1970. where their concentration made them an easier target for labor organizing. more the old way.”17 Large defense-related manufacturing firms like 24 Chapter 2 . anticommunist Cold War terms. .
In the 1950s. showing four employees at its new headquarters in suburban White Plains. Inc.18 The Electronics Park. not center cities.2. another early corporate campus. New York. deemed essential for clerical and support staffs.3 The 1954 cover of GF News.19 Central business districts were considered to be particularly vulnerable to atomic attack.1). corporations perceived that welleducated. were to be increasingly found in suburbs. (Courtesy of Kraft Foods. white. middle-class women. outside of Syracuse. In 1952 Fortune reported that downtown executives did not T h e C o r p o r at i o n i n t h e S u b u r b s 25 . a publication distributed to the staff of General Foods. particularly as this dovetailed with their management policies. was part of a conscious effort on General Electric’s part to decentralize management and research from its Manhattan headquarters and vast Schenectady industrial plant (figure 2.) General Motors and General Electric planned new peripheral facilities. New York.
as ever more important. Alarmed by films of postatomic Nagasaki and protective of 26 Chapter 2 .4 The gatehouse of the AT&T Bell Laboratories near Summit. New Jersey. LC-G612-T-42011) wish to document. went on record in the Fortune article. not possible in downtowns. was certainly in a Cold War mode when he addressed his employees on the opening day of the White Plains headquarters in 1952: “My deepest interest in seeing GF grow and become stronger is because I want to see this world stay free. it wanted to avoid target areas. . Charles Mortimer. Prints & Photographs Division.2). . (Library of Congress. and its land acquisition corresponds in time with the description. Howard Russell. corporations considered these security measures.”20 One of the companies was likely General Foods. general manager of Improved Risk Mutuals. their considerable fears of nuclear destruction. much less admit publicly. each “privately revealed that. in 1942. Gottscho-Schleisner Collection. president of General Foods. . as the corporation’s move was a focus of the Fortune article. a leading business and industry insurance company. The complexes might be highly visible from surrounding roadways but corporations carefully controlled access to large. yet as civil defense activities increased after 1949.2. As American corporations engaged in defense-related work during the Cold War era and urban unrest increased in the 1960s. isolated sites. interest by New York City corporations in suburban locations increased sharply. Out of twentytwo corporations that consulted with an expert on land acquisitions in suburban Westchester County.22 One executive.”21 Long-term employees of the company still remember that the scuttlebutt around General Foods was that the new office was designed to serve as a hospital in the event of a nuclear war (see figure 4. among other things. I believe the sound growth of this company of ours is directly connected with the preservation of world freedom [emphasis in original].
They had to justify the advantages of suburban locations and formulate a functional alternative to center city buildings. Bell Labs. when it became apparent that the move to the suburbs was the corporate version of “duck and cover.” Its internal publications repeatedly stressed the company’s “park-like setting. and IBM that were doing extensive research and product development for the Defense Department.”26 Lessons from the Factory As management retreated from the central city. . corporations confronted the task of fundamentally reconceptualizing their facilities as suburban emplacements. .” while acknowledging that “the move has brought many changes. corporate management had to counter internal skepticism about suburban relocations. suburban sites could offer corporate management an extraordinary degree of control over access to their properties. For companies such as General Electric. he declared: “I wanted to get the files out of the bombing area—and I wanted to get Russell out too!”23 After occupying temporary quarters in White Plains. In leaving the city center.”24 In addition to presumed safety from atomic warfare.” the security mind-set transmuted into concerns for insulation from the urban strife of the 1960s: strikes. which some companies chose to do. only suburbs offered these site layouts. The pastoral ideal played a critical role in the justification for exiting the downtown. riots. General Foods urged employees to view the move to Westchester County as “out of the city . General Motors. New York. the company moved into a purpose-built office building in 1953. racial conflicts. and a special bomb-proof shelter in the basement. long approach drives gave ample warning of oncoming vehicles. Corporations promoted the suburban pastoral environment as conducive to the function of the corporate enterprise. bombing threats. . Buildings were distanced from public roads. . complete with “an emergency electric generator . Corporations heralded the verdant pleasures of their new locations as substitutes to urban enticements. security measures could be tied up in a serene bucolic package. its paper archives. some immediately welcomed—like a chance to stroll on tree-lined paths at noon—and some that will take a little getting used to—like the distance from the big city.4).25 Rather than building obtrusive downtown corporate fortresses. By the 1960s. antiwar demonstrations. and into the trees. in T h e C o r p o r at i o n i n t h e S u b u r b s 27 . and bombings.the firm’s primary asset. and guardhouses could vet visitors under the guise of giving friendly directions to the large sites (figure 2.
5). and turnover. George C.this.”29 Nimmons’s rhetorical promotion of landscape improvements anticipated the reasons that corporations later used for occupying corporate campuses. 28 Chapter 2 . industries built factories and company towns influenced by welfare capitalism. the pleasure and satisfaction they give the owner and the strong and valuable influence which at all times exert upon the employees. a strategy devised by industrial corporations to make workers more compliant and resist unionization.” that exemplified the emphasis placed on “landscape improvements” in this new factory type. illustrated with numerous examples (figure 2. The strategy included systematic study of workers performing in the factory environment. and wherever attractive buildings and improved grounds will aid materially to reduce labor turnover. these plants set standards lauded by contemporary commentators. Nimmons.30 The presumption behind the inclusion of landscape amenities in the factory was a positive effect on worker satisfaction. “Modern Industrial Plants.27 Although these were certainly the exception and not the rule. promotion among workers and the public of a positive. although their cost is not nearly as great as it is commonly supposed to be. they will be a good and wise investment for this one reason alone.28 The articles repeatedly advocated the inclusion of landscape areas for both aesthetic and recreational purposes. including “landscape amenities” such as playfields. In devising a new kind of business setting. allotment gardens.6). authored a 1918–1919 series in Architectural Record. In the first two decades of the twentieth century. an architect who designed a wide range of industrial plants in the Chicago area. responsible corporate image through mass media. the design of suburban factories of the 1920s and 1930s provided corporations with a basic formulation of building and site that they then applied to management locations in the postwar era. and the use of employee amenities to quell employee dissatisfaction. and parks with pavilions and clubhouses (figure 2. The last item is now the most important of all. corporations reiterated the rhetoric of early twentieth-century experiments with the welfare capitalist factory. their important effect in raising the whole character of the community or city in which they are located. corporate estates. Among the ten measures Nimmons proposed to address “the excessive turnover of labor. and office parks: The chief advantages to an industrial plant of attractive buildings and grounds are their advertising value. productivity. pride.” the first two were “convenient and wholesome location for the buildings” and “improved grounds around buildings and landscaped where possible.
5 Plan of the 1906 Sears Roebuck & Company plant in Chicago designed by George Nimmons.architecturalrecord. features of the pastoral public park became part of the factory site plan. Besides providing space for whatever activities might be organized by management. such as the Sears Roebuck & Company plant. ball courts.com) 2. and lawn expanses were expected to increase employee morale. In this kind of welfare capitalist factory landscape amenities such as gardens.6 In welfare capitalist factories. (Reprinted with permission from Architectural Record © 1919. The McGraw-Hill Companies. and compliance. landscape areas framed the view of the factory from surrounding streets and provided expansive green views from within the factory buildings. playfields. www. (Photo courtesy of Sears Holdings) T h e C o r p o r at i o n i n t h e S u b u r b s 29 .2. productivity.
Above all.Although satisfaction and pride were nebulously assessed. The pastoral landscape became an exploitable commodity in labor relations. welfare capitalism indicated the extent to which nineteenthcentury beliefs in landscape scenery’s capacity for mental and social engineering pervaded industrial management. It also demonstrated a level of receptivity among factory workers to the persuasions of the pastoral. workers’ improved reliability and increased work effort were apparently measurable and concrete. though the welfare 30 Chapter 2 .
com) T h e C o r p o r at i o n i n t h e S u b u r b s 31 . Typically an expanse of lawn and trees fronted the two. and even where this is not the aim. with ample room for expansion. parking and future expansion” (figure 2. horizontal suburban factory. in-line industrial plants required sizable building footprints.”33 Suburban corporate landscapes reiterated the architectural. industrial development took place exclusively in suburban or rural areas because single-story. Similar to later claims for management facilities. as they had the company town. modular layout.7). the landscape was a stratagem to represent the corporation to internal and external audiences. After 1920. But as postwar corporations redeployed landscape persuasions in their suburban management facilities. As postwar corporate leaders formulated the working environments of postwar management on the urban periphery.. located in Evendale. outside of Cinncinati. www. efficiently large floor areas. factories of the first half of the twentieth century provided crucial conceptual and physical models to employ the pastoral in the American work environment. as seen here in the Wright Aeronautical Corporation factory. Through the 1930s and 1940s.7 The low-rise. and unionization proved to be more beneficial to the lives of industrial employees than any factory amenities. The Austin Company’s designs distinguished administrative offices as “separate entities” and selected “the site commanding the most advantageous view from the major highway approaches and affording adequate space for visitor parking.” The firm advocated two-story administrative offices to “effectively mask the irregularities of sawtooth or monitor roofs. yet the administration buildings fronting plants were often surrounded by an expanse of lawn and trees. and landscape dispositions found in the suburban factory. preceded the management offices in the urban periphery.albertkahn. the Austin Company and. they met with a much more receptive target—white-collar workers bearing middle-class values that held the pastoral in particular esteem. and building expansion.” the identifying features of a factory. Like the welfare factory. most especially. (Photo courtesy of Albert Kahn Associates. Suburban factories constructed in the two decades prior to World War II provided the essential model for the layout and design of the postwar suburban management facility.factory waned as a tool to control labor: blue-collar workers ultimately resisted the inherent paternalism of welfare factories. Deep landscape setbacks faced the busiest roadway and presented the corporation’s public face to passersby. parking. they contended that “the physical plant set in landscape surroundings has been made a show place and a calculated element in the public relations program. Albert Kahn Associates refined the horizontal suburban factory. community pride is maintained by a plant that is an asset. Ohio designed by Albert Kahn Associates in 1940.32 Kahn’s firm also faced administrative buildings to adjoining highways and favored site designs to “provide ample area for landscaping. 2. Site plans accommodated low-rise structures.31 Efficient and cost-effective modular construction and undisguised structural detailing characterized the architecture of production sheds.to three-story administration buildings. Inc. big parking lots.
thereby reassuring his audience that these were people of similar class and means. In an experience that proved prophetic for many subsequent corporate leaders. president of Bell Laboratories. large houses. unfenced front yards presenting a continuous street-side landscape—spacious. The AT&T Bell Laboratories located its precedent-setting 1942 laboratory campus near Summit. Jewett had to assure both politicians and residents that the few hundred laboratory employees would be primarily scientists and engineers who would be interested in living locally. and expansive. built outside Birmingham. in 1952. these classic American pastoral suburbs were pointedly not places of business enterprise.37 The project type was an unknown. New Jersey. Although suburban factory schemes influenced the eventual forms of pastoral capitalism. but they were not evenly pastoral. leafy havens of the white upper and uppermiddle classes. an early. As they infringed on bucolic enclaves. Jewett. B.Locating in the Suburbs Midcentury American suburbs were all low density compared to the center city. both with limited pastoral embellishments. it eventually settled north of New York City in White Plains. corporate management wanted to locate in a quite separate sector of midcentury suburbs.8). corporations confronted an insistent and recurring issue. they were partially defined as being devoid of large-scale commerce. including Summit. F. These were well-established pastoral residential suburbs of large lots.”36 With this choice. corporations had to quell considerable resident resistance to their big employment centers. Until the advent of pastoral capitalism. Alabama. described as “a pinnacle of suburban privilege constructed by the city’s white elite. Westchester County. had to convince local politicians that his 1930 campus proposal (not realized until 1942) would fit into the “high” suburban character of Summit. the corporation considered various locations around New York City but determined that their “partly industrial” character “would not suit our needs.34 Tellingly.35 The developers of the first office park. When General Foods decided to leave Manhattan in 1950. and local residents suspected that the suspiciously industrial project would produce what they deemed unsavory environmental and social conditions. Jewett and nineteen other top executives and scientists already lived 32 Chapter 2 .” This impelled the corporation to scout other locations beyond the metropolitan edge. indeed. elegant railroad suburb of New York City (figure 2. where large estates dotted the countryside and prized pastoral scenery was carefully guarded. they were located in manufacturing suburbs dominated by industrial plants and working-class housing. much less industry. limited commercial uses. chose the residential area of Mountain Brook.
not more than three stories high. By 1932. . and restricted uses to “research.) T h e C o r p o r at i o n i n t h e S u b u r b s 33 . a name that signified a congruous landscape aesthetic to the affluent community. thereby facilitating more corporate investments. All together we expect to make it a show place.”39 The General Foods project succeeded because the development dictates imitated the bygone Westchester estates: low-rise building. The buildings will be of artistic design. New Jersey.) Similarly. It required ample setbacks. The landscape provisions of pastoral capitalism made corporate workplaces acceptable to residents who had to be convinced that the new developments would not compromise their communities’ genteel milieu. . He asserted: “We will develop it with campus-like effect. pastoral suburb was typical of where corporations wanted to locate the facilities for their management echelons. local ordinances codified Jewett’s concept with the first example of research and development zoning in the country. (Photo by author.in the area. arcing entry drive. and he had to pledge to the worried locals that the new development was not a manufacturing plant. and he prevailed in getting the project approved.”38 Jewett repeatedly stressed that the site was being planned and designed by the Olmsted Brothers.8 The suburb of Summit. (Jewett never mentioned the architects. 2. . Suburban authorities countered ongoing community resistance by using the early projects’ restrictions as templates for ensuing zoning. design and/or experimentation. characterized the public hearing to approve the precedent-setting headquarters for General Foods as “the roughest zoning hearing I’ve ever attended. limited building heights to three stories. who subsequently served as the Westchester County executive into the 1970s. the presiding mayor of White Plains. This upscale. low.”40 Once it was completed in 1942. and a pastoral landscape. where AT&T built the first corporate campus.
Massachusetts. and schools.45 It was based on a careful leveraging of public funding for suburban expansion through mortgage subsidies and infrastructure financing. The answer is business property. public works. especially roadways. it will help solve a threatening problem that most of the county’s towns now face. a tension that was particularly acute in the 1950s 34 Chapter 2 . General Foods was a “breakthrough” development culminating in Westchester County’s “Platinum Mile” along the Cross Westchester Expressway—a string of corporate estates and office parks housing leading American corporations.41 Similarly. potentially threatening established values and patterns. guided zoning ordinances for future development around Boston’s Route 128. suburban political and entrepreneurial interests had something to gain from corporate offices beyond whatever profits could be had through the development of specific properties. Office buildings look like a heavensent answer. Pastoral capitalist landscapes were a new type of metropolitan form that emerged from this directed set of “capital flows” into the urban periphery.43 However skeptical the reception of suburban home owners. Residential areas don’t pay their own way unless average valuations run high.44 This kind of “suburban grand compromise” between home owners and power brokers would be repeated all over the country. As BusinessWeek reported in 1951 after the announcement by General Foods of its intention to build a “garden-type office building” in White Plains. which became a globally recognized suburban corridor of high-technology companies. suburban jurisdictions welcomed the new corporate developments for urgent reasons: If the trend continues. Rapid expansion of suburban housing was exponentially expanding the need for such community services as police.42 The development covenants of the 1955 Hobbs Brook Office Park in Waltham.Bell Labs quickly spawned a series of other corporate research laboratories in the vicinity. and restrictions that ensured race and class segregation. attraction of new business enterprises compatible with a suburban aesthetic.46 Corporate enterprises in the genteel suburbs nevertheless challenged local residents as intruding emblems of capitalist modernity. fire protection. But Westchester doesn’t want a lot of little business districts or factories. the second office park in the country. but don’t clutter up the countryside. Large estates that used to pay the big tax bills are being split up into smaller residential sections. hospitals. They carry a big share of the tax load. To make sure they do Westchester sets minimum acreage. [and] will allow buildings to cover only a minor part of it.
48 In a speech at the inauguration of the Deere & Company Administrative Center. and corporate support services were nonexistent. but corporations needed to buy considerably more property to achieve the desired office layout and pastoral effect. Like earlier industrial production. verdant ambience. yet they clearly expected the suburban facilities to profitably heighten and direct employee energies. transit systems were oriented to move people into the central business district to work. To accommodate large and growing corporate staffs. which often required giving these employees transport subsidies. the chairman T h e C o r p o r at i o n i n t h e S u b u r b s 35 . In spite of these drawbacks. All of these conditions implied a considerable outlay of time and capital for businesses intent on suburban relocations. The first corporations undertaking this shift relied more on conviction than calculation. potentially devaluing future development while facilitating their proliferation among resistant suburban communities. Land prices may have been cheaper per square foot than in the central business district. General Motors mandated that the design of the Technical Center’s laboratory windows be such “that the innermost draftsman be aware of the leaves of the trees. the placement of the corporate enterprise in residential suburbs was no small task. In other words. corporations determined that the suburban offices merited investment. Concomitantly. In midcentury residential suburbs.across a broad spectrum of cultural manifestations.” and the plethora of public relations materials distributed at its opening promoted the campus design as conducive to engineering innovation. the process by which proposals determined local zoning protected corporate investments from incompatible. the initial suburban corporate offices had to draw the majority of their employees out from the center city. Local governments were ill equipped to deal with weighty developments. The somewhat old-fashioned landscape provisions attached to these modern developments made them palatable in places known for their idealized.47 The pastoral envelope of suburban corporate landscapes ensured environmental conformity that was inevitably linked to the social homogeneity that these communities so carefully defended. though usually they were more pliable to corporate influence than hardnosed center city politicianswere. and envied. corporations had to build their own facilities from scratch and maintain the buildings and landscape. the pastoral ideal was essential in instrumentalizing the “suburban grand compromise.” The Suburban Corporate Landscape Even leaving aside local opposition. not out to the suburbs.
51 But they also added an essential component to the suburban business environment by creating a novel kind of high-profile site adjacent to well-traveled.52 William Story of Wilcox-Laird.and chief executive officer confidently declared that the corporation’s new suburban headquarters would provide “additional inspiration to all of us to be bold. In contrast. and the deployment of the pastoral surround was crucial in this process. was still the imageable realm of capitalist power brokers. and the designers they hired. particularly the business district. in the physical and mental benefits of pastoral landscapes over the city center. to use our imagination in new ways to keep John Deere out in front as a leader. In the shift to the suburbs. One of the advantages of the dense central city. the diffuse ubiquity of sylvan settings attenuated corporate visibility. in the words of one vice president. Of course. was the historic backdrop for captains of industry. corporate developments spread out along the urban periphery lacked conspicuous geographical concentrations that could highlight their presence and importance. then under construction (figure 2. shared by corporate managers. with impressive scale and architecture. even to the point of straining credulity. wrote in Landscape Architecture of the particular role of 36 Chapter 2 . To compensate for their geographical obscurity.”49 As Fortune recounted in 1952. prominent viewpoints furnished by parkways and freeways.10). corporate leaders. The factory. After completion in 1957. expansion of these road systems facilitated suburban building of all kinds by making exurban property easily accessible to automobile traffic. Given the central role of these kinds of justifications. corporations took advantage of new. had the task of inventing a new type of workplace—a pointedly suburban corporate office that nonetheless incorporated the symbolic and functional purposes of center city locations. For at least two decades after 1945. corporations had to devise different means of distinction and affiliation. could literally “see the woods for the trees” (figure 2. limited-access roadways. with productive technological muscularity.9). In 1945. the landscape architects of the Electronics Park. the central business district. Fortune used the Electronics Park to demonstrate the Thruway’s capacity to show off a structure that “stands out handsomely alongside” and thereby publicize the company that owned it. General Electric located the Electronics Park outside of Syracuse at the intersection of a principal county highway and the New York Thruway. ingenious and creative.50 The corporate testimonials evinced the larger cultural belief. was as a nexus of popular and competitive recognition: ready identification in the business landscape. postwar businesses considering suburban moves simply believed that “everybody can work better and think better in the country” and that top executives.
.” Story goes on to recommend 300 to 500 setbacks of “artistic yet skillful” landscape design “for proper circulation.”53 Similarly. (Fortune cartoons courtesy of James Stevenson) “the location.”54 The building projected a prominent image in a county famed for the estates of elite New Yorkers and along one of the most trafficked highways in the metropolitan region (see figure 4.’’ 2. . confirmed the promotional advantage of the view from the road. Here will be our approach. orientation. A 1958 Highway Research Board study revealed that for businesses locating along Boston’s Route 128.9 Corporate management’s move to the urban periphery inspired ‘’I’m sorry—Mr. . T h e C o r p o r at i o n i n t h e S u b u r b s 37 . Stevenson captures the surprise at the intrusion of corporate workplace into the pastoral countryside and the somewhat fanciful expectation that the landscape itself would generate added executive inspiration. interesting grading.’’ a series of cartoons by the New Yorker regular James Stevenson published in the June 1967 issue of Fortune. General Foods management dictated that their corporate estate located along the Cross Westchester Parkway (later also part of the New York Thruway) “should in effect ‘crown the hill’ thus assuring the availability of vistas for all sides.55 The speculative success of the office park. and you’ll see the executive building . with every feature a hedge against risk. . enframement. etc.‘’Turn left at the new research center. and treatment with respect to the abutting highway. go past Palumbo’s vegetable stand.2). which included some of the first office parks. here will be our advertising. Lee has just stepped away from his desk .
since this marketed projects to potential tenants.2. an image much more akin to a public institution than a profit-making enterprise. and service docks—required underground placement. The site designs of suburban management facilities removed from the visual field any feature that might be construed as “industrial” by passersby or occupants of the new sites. Seemingly decorative lakes managed site runoff from huge parking lots. Infrastructural elements—drainage pipes. Benjamin and Gladys Thomas Air Photo Archives. most often a highway. (UCLA Department of Geography.10 The General Electric Electronics Park adjacent to the underconstruction New York Thruway in the 1950s. . utility conduits. climate control systems. The Spence and Fairchild Collections) “aesthetics was a significant consideration . expressed as ‘a desire to locate in a good looking site. served as reservoirs to 38 Chapter 2 . . or disguise. New highways provided a new means of projecting a corporation’s image to local and distant audiences as thousands of passing motorists saw handsome buildings surrounded by carefully tended pastoral grounds. screening. The highway and the automobile substituted for the downtown street and the pedestrian in making the corporation an evident component of the metropolitan landscape.’”56 All office parks directed their most expansive landscape toward the busiest adjacent thoroughfare. Sites along parkways and highways broadcast pleasing panoramas of verdant corporate facilities to thousands of passing motorists even as corporations carefully controlled physical access. cooled air-conditioning systems. both with respect to buildings and landscaping.
The transparent curtain wall of modernist buildings demanded a suitable exterior panorama. Furthermore.57 Vast.12). for the entire wall was now window. In suburban management facilities. the only two acceptable views were a dynamic city skyline or verdant pastures (figure 2.11). The nicely proportioned. and the site plans of suburban management projects minimized the visibility of parking lots to the largest possible extent (figure 2. uninterrupted stretches of parking were typical of suburban factories.”59 Modernist architecture’s shearing of embellishments accentuated the landscape’s symbolic and ornamental effects in the suburban corporate workplace. LC-G612-T-55676) meet fire codes. parking had to be much more carefully subsumed into enveloping verdure.11 The wide expanses of parking that flanked factories were a sure sign of an industrial blue-collar plant. artful grading and strategic planting minimized evidence of the car in all suburban corporate landscapes. . at least to some extent. from a disinterested view. and supplied water for laboratory experiments.2. . (Library of Congress. a modernist management building and a factory might look much the same. precise metal and glass walls of this architecture are embarrassed by the big lots crammed with Detroit’s suave bulbous auto bodies. Architectural Forum highlighted this issue in its otherwise glowing article on the 1957 Connecticut General Life Insurance Company headquarters outside Hartford: “One evident flaw. The need to distinguish between the environments of genteel T h e C o r p o r at i o n i n t h e S u b u r b s 39 .”58 While corporate estates after Connecticut General concealed parking most elegantly and completely. . Gottscho-Schleisner Collection. The developer of the first office park characterized this effect as “looking over the tree tops instead of the car tops. Prints & Photographs Division.
reluctant welcomes by local communities.” these challenges seem inconsequential. and the task of reformulating their workplaces.”60 In an era that strictly limited the employment venues of women and valorized domesticity. Although not applicable to the corporate campus housing scientists and engineers or corporate estates meant to accommodate corporate executives—in both cases. and justify the decision by corporate leaders to move to the 40 Chapter 2 . men were the critical labor force—economic studies decisively demonstrate that cheaper. In internal communications. the composition of the surrounding view became an essential consideration in the design of postwar offices. they were not. taking on the trappings of home grounds and parks was useful. Both General Foods and Connecticut General employed unusually high numbers of women.61 Corporations that ventured to the suburbs engendered considerable opposition among their leaderships.2. (Ezra Stoller © Esto) white-collar management and gritty blue-collar industry necessitated investment in a substantial green surround in a suburban facility. General Foods allied its move to Westchester with the upward mobility of its workers: “For many. the move has meant a whole new kind of life. many added costs. displacement of employees. As modernist architecture opened wide expanses of glass to the outside view.12 View of the pastoral landscape from inside the Connecticut General Life Insurance Company headquarters in suburban Hartford. The familiar aesthetic of the pastoral allowed the reidentification of the corporation as a conformist suburban neighbor. as did the corporate “back office” administrative staffs occupying office parks. From the perspective of the contemporary built-out “edge city. they were a strategy to reinforce. City apartment dwellers have become suburban property owners—like General Foods. facilitate. more cooperative female employees were crucial for some suburban businesses. Nor were the prevailing pastoral schemes of the corporate outposts inevitable.
including the suburban women who formed their support staffs. Even if perceived as T h e C o r p o r at i o n i n t h e S u b u r b s 41 . In addition to its usefulness as a management strategy. Without doubt the pastoral workplace bolstered the class identity of management workers. the chief executive of General Foods.”62 The Corporation in the Suburbs Initial reports from the suburban frontier indicated that corporations had made a good bet on pastoral capitalism.66 When Deere & Company occupied the Administrative Center. and want ads with pictures of the site produced decidedly higher response rates. the message of “orderliness. boasted of low turnover rates thirteen years after the move to White Plains.68 Other corporations reported that integrated parking areas boosted employees’ effective working hours and amenability to overtime by minimizing out-the-door distractions. spaciousness.69 While these indexes were not available until after corporations occupied new facilities. As the landscape architect of the 1948 General Electric Electronics Park described his client’s aims. reinforced their self-conceptions. after making up for losses incurred by the move itself. eliminating concerns about downtown traffic congestion. hiring better-qualified applicants became easier. It compensated for the remote office location and cultivated corporate allegiance. the purpose of the site’s trees. and making mass transportation schedules irrelevant. Connecticut.”65 Charles Mortimer. and created a more complacent. selective workforce in the process. indeed Bell Labs had no difficulty attracting top researchers to its precedentsetting campus in spite of the dearth of qualified personnel during the postwar period. lawns.64 Time described the 1956 Connecticut General Life Insurance Company offices in Bloomfield. and well-being” conveyed by the pastoral aesthetic served as adroit symbolism for the burgeoning postwar corporation. as “literally ringed with employee amenities” that “proved to be a powerful lure in a competitive Hartford labor market. they proved to corporations that suburban settings enabled greater control over their workers. and lakes was “the creation of a development that bespeaks orderliness.urban periphery. and well-being. spaciousness. A Bell Labs scientist asserted in an academic journal that the new “quiet country location” optimized scientific research.63 Central business district headquarters that left for the suburbs testified that employee turnover fell by 50 percent.67 Surveys showed that Deere & Company employees overwhelmingly favored the resplendent site and landscape of the Administrative Center over all other elements of the headquarters.
by implication. if not quite real. corporations exist in a variable but always present tension with a suspicious public. corporations understood the capacity of a pastoral surround to communicate 42 Chapter 2 . Since the 1920s. technological modernity in service to life-enhancing progress. values of an idealized.70 Like suburban home owners. Corporations allied themselves with the images and.instruments of affluence. they have explicitly addressed this tension through public relations media aimed at internal and external audiences. and the nuclear family ensconced in material comfort. America: the edifying civility of bucolic small towns.
Eugene Smith. it now was a future-oriented. corporations adopted a pastoral landscape not simply because they moved to the suburbs. the middle class lives there because the suburbs could be made middle class. “Greenery. (The photograph ultimately appeared in a 1957 issue of Architectural Forum. Jackson states. Like the pastoral landscape of the suburban house. the corporate appropriation of landscape display fits within a broader picture of “paternal neighborliness and democratic modes” that drove corporate self-representation in the twentieth century.” as the cultural landscape historian J. corporate estate. instead of being a mere fantasy of the privileged and the powerful. to embody the privileged position of corporations. “Suburbs are not middle class simply because the middle class lives there.”72 Similarly. “took on a new democratic literalism. the corporate campus. another Henry Luce publication. sometimes emphasized more overtly.) The photograph seems to capture the grand aspiration of postwar American society and capitalism in the family gazing at a lustrous steel corporate structure framed by a verdant. it also held enough vestigial elite associations. captured this summary shot of the new Connecticut General Life Insurance Company headquarters.identity. In evolving from its European origins.75 Thus. in which the ideal place represents a largely nostalgic retreat from social reality. and right-mindedness. tranquil pastoral landscape. If the pastoral landscape came to have communal associations. This landscape surround fit neatly into the attempted recontextualization of corporate endeavors to create goodwill across a spectrum of publics. Richard Walker says of the residential suburb. University of Arizona/Black Star) T h e C o r p o r at i o n i n t h e S u b u r b s 43 . 2. pastoral capitalism reflected an integrated set of values that served big business.”73 While hawking mythic American themes. and reinforced elite American values as a whole. relatively egalitarian. (© Estate of W. behaviors. acute concerns to enterprises exercising new power in the twentieth century. this was an attainable rather than lordly rank. this expression of the pastoral landscape also conveyed ascendancy. on assignment for Fortune magazine in 1957.13 The renowned photographer W. drove expansive suburbanization. reiterated in everyday physicality the way corporations wished to be understood—as seamless with traditional American culture (figure 2. and ideologies that form social distinctions in the American city.71 The enthusiastic and continued adoption of pastoral landscapes by corporations is not merely coincident to broader suburbanization. The pastoral landscapes of corporations aptly. not infeasible vision of liminal possibility. is “a way of communicating with others. and vividly.13). B. status.”74 Most crucial. and office park were the aspirational landscapes of a triumphant American capitalism and became part of differential spatial consumption that reinforces the experiences. In this context. as Leo Marx noted. they moved to the suburbs to replace themselves within a pastoral landscape. courtesy of the meritocracy of the corporate hierarchy. Eugene Smith/ Center for Creative Photography. American pastoralism.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.