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The White Room: Eliot Noyes and the Logic of the Information Age Interior

Author(s): John Harwood


Source: Grey Room, No. 12 (Summer, 2003), pp. 5-31
Published by: The MIT Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1262641
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Eliot Noyes and Associates.


Westinghouse Tele-Computer
Center, near Pittsburgh, 1964.

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Top: Eliot Noyes and

Associates. Westinghouse
Tele-Computer Center, near
Pittsburgh, 1964. Plan.

Bottom: Eliot Noyes and


Associates. Tele-Computer
Center, 1964. Interior.

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The White Room:

Eliot Noyes and the Logic of the


Information Age Interior
JOHN HARWOOD

In a 1965 essay entitled "'On Line' in 'Real Time,"' the editors of Fortune magazi

described the advent of a new technological order that had already dramati
altered military planning and organization and would now impose itself
business-the arrival of computer processing and management in "real tim

Members of Westinghouse Electric Corporation's executive committee


recently filed into a small room in the company's new Tele-Computer
Center near Pittsburgh and prepared to look at their business as no grou

of executives had ever looked at business before. In front of them was a

large video screen, and to one side of the screen was a "remote inquiry"
device that seemed a cross between a typewriter and a calculator. As the
lights dimmed, the screen lit up with current reports from many of the
company's important divisions-news of gross sales, orders, profitability,
inventory levels, manufacturing costs, and various measures of performance based on such data. When the officers asked the remote-inquiry
device for additional information or calculations, distant computers shot

back the answers in seconds.1

In 1964 the architect, industrial designer, and "curator of corporate character"

Eliot Noyes (1910-1977) was the first to confront the problem of designing a
building for corporate activity that was "on line" in "real time." The result was
a near-opaque exterior of tinted glass walls accentuated by laminated white
quartz panels, enveloping a maximally open interior of partition walls organized around a central, glass-walled room filled with computers and their
bustling attendants. If this is the architecture of real-time management, how are

we to understand it?

It is in investigating this enclosed central space, the site of the dynamic inter-

face between humans and machines engaged in the synchronic real-time management of spaces or fields outside, that the architectural logic linking and
organizing the corporate body, computers, and design unfolds. It is this logic-

Grey Room 12. Summer 2003, pp. 5-31. ? 2003 Grey Room, Inc. and Massachusetts Institute of Technology 7

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that of a counterenvironment generated from the demands of machines upon


human bodies and vice versa-that pushes architecture toward an increasing
closure and blankness, toward architecture's limit case. Aspects of Noyes's own
career, leading up to his work for Westinghouse, and beyond, offer a virtual
cross-section of this encounter between humans and machines-an encounter

played out behind the designed surfaces of corporate buildings and computers.

Noyes's first contact with the corporation coincides exactly with his first efforts
at negotiating the interface between human and machine. In 1940, probably due

to the widespread influence of his mentor Walter Gropius, he became the first
curator of the new Industrial Design Department at the Museum of Modern
Art in New York. That year Noyes organized and presided over the famous com-

petitive exhibition Organic Design in Home Furnishings and published a polemical catalogue of the same title documenting the results. On the inside cover
of the catalogue Noyes set the terms of the competition with his definition of
"Organic Design":
A design may be called organic when there is an harmonious organization
of the parts within the whole, according to structure, material, and purpose.
Within this definition there can be no vain ornamentation or superfluity,
but the part of beauty is none the less great-in ideal choice of material, in
visual refinement, and in the rational elegance of things intended for use.2

This last statement is telling, because the competition was as much a business

deal as a museum exhibit; each of the winning designers was awarded a


production and distribution contract with a major American department store.
The overwhelming winner of the competition was the team of Eero Saarinen
and Charles Eames, taking the two most important categories-living room

and chair design-with their innovative method of "anthropomorphically"


bending plywood.
Noyes defined design, albeit implicitly, as a matter of teamwork.3 The exhibition was itself a collaboration between museum, designers, and corporations,
and all of the winners of the competition, with the exception of textile design-

ers, were teams of two or more designers.4 More important, Noyes stressed in
Organic Design not only the role of the machine in design and production but
its formative impact on society as well. Also on the inside cover, alongside his
own definition of "organic design," Noyes included two quotations from Lewis

Mumford's Technics and Civilization:

I
I
8

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Our capacity to go beyond the machine rests in our power to assimilate the

machine. Until we have absorbed the lessons of objectivity, impersonality,


neutrality, the lessons of the mechanical realm, we cannot go further in our
development toward the more richly organic, the more profoundly human.
The economic: the objective: and finally the integration of these principles
in a new conception of the organic-these are the marks, already discernible,

of our assimilation of the machine not merely as an instrument of action

but as a valuable mode of life.5

Here was the central problem of design, as Noyes saw it in 1940. The chair, and
the living room, were points of interface between the human and the machine.

The success of that interaction hinged on the development of a newly

"organic"-that is, newly organized-environment, and demanded the study of


the boundary between human and machine (to be defined later as ergonomics).6
Thus the appeal of Saarinen and Eames's designs, which expressively mapped
the form of the human body onto machine-made furniture and integrated these

new forms into the bright white rooms of the modern home. It was these preliminary efforts at achieving a synthetic and social approach to the mechanical
and the natural-that is, of navigating the liminal territory of the ergonomicthat Noyes brought to bear in his work at IBM.
Noyes's career at MoMA was soon interrupted-though one might also say
accelerated-by World War II. Because of his experience flying gliders, he was
recruited as a test pilot in the army-air force glider research program.7 At the
Pentagon, Noyes's neighbor down the hall was Thomas Watson Jr., a reconnais-

sance pilot and future heir of the International Business Machines (IBM)
Corporation. The two became friends after Noyes gave Watson lessons on how to
fly gliders. After the war Noyes returned to New York and MoMA and also took

a partnership in the offices of the aging Norman Bel Geddes; Watson returned
to IBM as executive vice president. Through their friendship Noyes won a series

of commissions from IBM for the Geddes office, most notably redesigning the
IBM 562 typewriter, transforming it into the sleek "Executive" model. The
smooth curves of its plastic casing, as well as the buttons of the keyboard,
redesigned to better fit the hand and fingers, became standard features in
American typewriter

IBM design. This initial success led to further com-

missions from IBM, and


on the closure of the
Geddes office in 1947

Opposite: Charles Eames and


Eero Saarinen. "Living Room"
Chairs. Published in Organic
Design in Home Furnishings,
1940.

Right: IBM Executive


Typewriters, 1959.

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Noyes opened his own architectural and industrial design office in New York,
attaching it to the architectural office of his friend and former teacher at Harvard,

Marcel Breuer, with whom he collaborated on several occasions throughout


his career.8

By 1950 Noyes's practice was self-sufficient enough for him to move his office

to New Canaan. The same year he accepted his first architectural-scale project
for IBM, redesigning Watson's office on the sixteenth floor of IBM World
Headquarters in New York. Noyes stripped away the walnut panels and heavy
curtains, replacing them with large sheer planes of color, and installing works
of modern art throughout. The floor was jokingly referred to by the employees
as "the rainbow room"; however, Noyes's modernizing also clearly impressed.

In the early 1950s Thomas Watson Jr., about to take over the presidency and
chairmanship from his father Thomas Watson Sr., made a series of momentous
decisions regarding the future of IBM.9 Following an emerging trend in management-reflected most famously in the reorganization strategies of General
Electric and the U.S. government under Eisenhower-Watson determined to
abandon IBM's pyramidal managerial hierarchy in favor of a more efficient,
"horizontal" structure. Thus, when he came to power in 1952, he began the
process of reshuffling IBM's various activities into a series of more or less
autonomous divisions, coordinated by a corporate managerial staff.
In the same years Watson made a commitment to move the bulk of IBM's mas-

sive resources into the research, development, and marketing of computers.


Watson Sr. had always considered IBM's work in computers before and during
WWII largely a matter of prestige rather than of business. The production of
computers had been a means to preserve working relationships with both universities and the U.S. government, bringing in increasingly large amounts of
money in the way of research grants but relatively little sales revenue. Watson
Jr. saw things differently. In order to win and maintain the numerous newly
emerging and lucrative contracts from the U.S. military, with an eye to a
prospective market for computers in the world of corporate business, and in
competitive response to recent successes of the Remington Rand UNIVAC computer in the business market, Watson determined that IBM should, by the end
of the 1950s, corner the entire computer market.

These two fundamental shifts in the structure and orientation of IBM were

accompanied by a third change: Watson determined that IBM should adopt a


"new look." Following a chance encounter with the sleek modern design of

Eliot Noyes. IBM Showroom,


New York, 1954.

10 Grey Roorr

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Olivetti's Manhattan showroom and advertisements,10 Watson hired Noyes to


redesign the IBM lobby and showroom in its corporate headquarters in Manhattan,

on the corner of 57th Street and Madison Avenue. The space was unveiled at
the premiere of the new IBM 702 computer, the announcement of which was to

cement IBM's commitment to business computing and almost prophetically


signaled IBM's dominance of the market for the next thirty-five years. Watson
described the appearance of the original lobby in his autobiography:
Dad [Thomas Watson Sr.] had decorated it to suit his taste, and it was like
the first-class salon on an ocean liner. It had the Oriental rugs he loved and
black marble pillars trimmed with gold leaf. Lining the walls were punch-

card machines and time clocks on display, cordoned off by velvet ropes
hooked to burnished brass posts.11
Noyes completely redecorated. The new floor was white, the walls painted red,
the marble pillars covered over with smooth panels, and small silver signs reading "IBM 702" in a sans serif font on the walls. Perhaps the most significant
change was the way in which the computers were displayed. As Watson relates:

The Data Processing Center generated enormous excitement. Like the


SSEC and the 701 that had preceded it in the window, the 702 was actually a working machine. Customers who wanted to rent computer time
would simply bring their data in, and we kept the computer running
around the clock. If you went by on Madison Avenue in the middle of the
night you would see it behind the big plate-glass windows, tended by welldressed technicians in its brightly lit room.12

Thus, Noyes's redecoration was not only an interior design, but an exhibition
staged in a shop window as well. Noyes and IBM were concerned at the outset
with projecting an image of IBM as a provider of an essentially modern service the handling of information. Interestingly, this was achieved by a staged
transparency that allowed a glimpse into an interior space-from outside to
inside.13 This interior was specially designed to highlight the ergonomically
sound relationship between the computer and its operators, processes that
occurred in a space entirely

, ~' Iv independent of the exter-

nal environment: "bri

.-- : ? ; ' ! P_ _ lit," "in the middle of the

night," "around the clock."

Following the popular

if _ success of this design (and

11

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IBM's financial successes in marketing computers), Watson offered Noyes a job


as the director of design at IBM in February 1956. Noyes turned him down, say-

ing: "I'll work with you, not for you. The only way I can do this job right is to
have full access to top management."14 Watson was convinced and Noyes thus
accepted a position as "Consultant Director of Design," pledging a major portion of his time to IBM while retaining his own private practice. By remaining
outside of the corporation, and thus outside of its hierarchies and autonomous
divisions, Noyes was considered more able to transform IBM on a structural
level by linking its products, spaces, and managerial processes through design.
He was to coordinate the redesign of the entire environment of IBM on a telescoping scale-from stationery and curtains, to products such as typewriters
and computers, to laboratory and administration buildings. According to both
Watson and Noyes, redesigning the look of IBM was essential to the way it functioned. As Watson related in a 1963 lecture at Columbia University-significantly titled "The New Environment"-on the various techniques IBM used to
restructure its management system and employee policies during the period:

With all of these innovations we have introduced in company communication, the principal lesson we have learned, I believe, is that you must
make use of a number of pipelines, upward as well as downward. Parallel
communication paths may seem unnecessary to some. But we have found
that any single path can be only partly successful, that certain information

flows better over some paths than others, and that all employees do not
react in the same way to a given medium. Management must have a wide
selection of communication means at its disposal.15
Viewed as technique of communication, design was to be one of what Watson
called "parallel communication paths." It was to be integrated into the dynamics
of management so thoroughly that it could literally be considered a defining
characteristic: management, as a process of communication, was to be inseparable

from its environment.

Rather than develop a recognizable "IBM style," Noyes argued to Watson, the

12 G

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theme of IBM's design program should "be simply the best in modern design."16
In keeping with Watson's reorganization of the managerial hierarchy of IBM,
graphic, product, and architectural designs could retain a certain autonomy
from one another in formal terms, but they would nonetheless be united by managerial oversight and a set of guiding principles-in short, by a systemic flexibility. Watson appointed an IBM sales executive, Gordon Smith, to the newly

created position of "Director of Communications." Smith, in addition to

coordinating the efforts of Noyes's office and those of IBM's own in-house
Design Department, would also be in charge of advancing the program throughout the corporation. The process of communication and management through
design was made redundant, as information flowed along "parallel communication paths."
On the design end, too, Noyes did not go it alone. In addition to working
alongside the IBM Design Department, he assembled and directed a team of
fellow consultants-the graphic designer Paul Rand, the designer and critic
George Nelson, the multitalented Charles and Ray Eames, and the historian and
critic Edgar Kaufmann-and hired a host of high- and low-profile architects to
tackle the problem of housing IBM's massive expansion in the late 1950s and
1960s. Thus, one might say, Noyes managed, perhaps as much as he designed,

the new look of IBM.

The synchronization of management and design was carried even further in


Noyes's assessment of what he called IBM's "corporate character." IBM was not

simply a maker of business machines, Noyes reasoned in a 1966 interview;


rather, it was in the business of controlling, organizing, and redistributing infor-

mation. This Noyes recognized as a matter of environmental control: "if you get
to the very heart of the matter, what IBM really does is to help man extend his
control over his environment.... I think that's the meaning of the company."17
The control of information in space and the design of the corporate environment
were opposite sides of the same coin: the designer's role within the context of
the corporation was to house it, organize it, and prevent its dissipation as its
control functions extended themselves into the wider environment.

This program, Watson, Noyes, and Smith recognized, could not be applied
from the top down. "The way to make it effective," Smith and Noyes explained

in a 1957 interview,

is not to send down a weighty memo from above, but to kindle spontaneous enthusiasm with a succession of good works.... And this will happen
only when good design-the awareness of it and the desire for it-begins
to come out through their own skins. That is why this is not an outside

Charles and Ray Eames.


Schematic diagram of a general
communication system
(after Warren Weaver), 1968.

od I The White Room 13

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movement. We are trying to start one within the company, using a variety
of stimuli.18

Teamwork and horizontality thus not only characterized the management


network, they characterized the intentions of the design program as well: design
was a means of re-forming the corporate body, literally at the level of the individual member, from the inside out. Emerging from under the "gray flannel
suit," the design signal-communicating the organized unity of the corporate
body, its spaces, and its machines-was to be borne along "parallel communication paths" with ultimate redundancy by the "awareness" and "desire" of every
IBM engineer, salesperson, and manager.
Noyes's first move as consultant director was to commission his fellow design
consultant Paul Rand to furnish IBM with a new logo and to coordinate the
application of this new standard throughout the company. This was done in
conjunction with a study of corporate signage, a summary of which Noyes

subsequently published in 1960, aimed at developing a universal system of


signage for all IBM facilities. Among the many conclusions Noyes draws in the
study concerning the deployment of signage, two are paramount: one, that the
ultimate criterion for measuring the effectiveness of a sign is "clarity of message"; and two, that architects should "consider the IBM sign as part of the
building, and to incorporate it in the design."19 Thus the IBM logo was a defining

characteristic of the new managerial environment; it would provide the consistent visual link-the consistent logic-between heterogeneous texts, machines,
and buildings.

All of IBM's products were submitted


to the rigors of this systemic yet flexible

approach. The design of the computers, which


by about 1954 had been miniaturized from the

scale of architecture to the scale of furniture,

was the primary site of reform. Critiquing the

applique chrome or curlicues of IBM's earlier

product designs, Noyes declared: "these

machines should not be like a ranch house.

They should be like a Mies house. They should


have that much integrity and joy."20 In conjunction with IBM's in-house design team,

and with the advice of his fellow consultants,

Noyes worked out a set of design guidelines-

a pattern book-that would guarantee the ;I =


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computers' "integrity and joy." Almost regardless of their shape or specific


function, they were to be enclosed in steel frames and covered over with
enameled-steel panels, clearly labeled, and lined up in rows like furniturescaled, curtain-walled skyscrapers.21

In 1956, following the successes of new typewriters, calculators, and the 702,
705, and RAMAC computers, IBM began a process of rapid expansion on an
international scale.22 This expansion, of course, and the move into the technologically demanding and rapidly changing market of computers, required new
facilities. Noyes and his fellow consultants therefore fanned out, commissioning
literally hundreds of buildings from their colleagues in the years 1956 to 1980:
Eero Saarinen, John Bolles, Paul Rudolph, Victor Lundy, Marcel Breuer, Ludwig
Mies van der Rohe, Harrison and Abramovitz, and many more large commercial firms and local architects were called upon to deliver "simply the best in
modern design" at an architectural scale.23 Though these buildings were reasonably diverse in appearance, they were all united by a common design logic
motivated by the desire for IBM's space to communicate in parallel with the dictates of its management and its products. IBM's engineers provided the modules
for laboratory, factory, and office buildings, demanded clear interior spans for
flexibility, and set requirements for maximum and minimum lighting; however,

their common logic was also the direct result of the demands the computers
placed upon architecture.
In order to "extend ... control over [the] environment" by the manipulation
of information, IBM's computers and all their accoutrements-including their
operators-required their own environment, within which they could function
optimally. To this end, Noyes himself set the tone for the building campaign by
developing a mode of environmental enclosure based on two different but interrelated organizational and communication logics. On one hand, the dramatically
patterned, opaque surfaces of IBM's buildings were understood as metaphorical
residues or imprints left upon architecture (considered as a "parallel communication path") by the passage of IBM's primary activity-data processing or
"pattern recognition"24-through the medium of architecture. On the other
hand, Noyes was concerned to enclose and define a tightly controlled, transparent interior based on the typology-and topology-of the monastic or domestic courtyard. Taken together, these two logics indicate an understanding of
architecture as a closed counterenvironment.25 That is, the environment of

IBM was to become a space organized in opposition to, and set apart from, its

Paul Rand and Eliot Noyes.


IBM signage, ca. 1956.

Room 15

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surroundings. Its diverse spaces-factories, laboratories, administration buildings-across the United States (and indeed the globe) were to be linked together

by these rigorous logics in a closed system, internally coherent precisely


because of their stark separation from any outside interference.

Noyes first developed this approach in two buildings (now demolished)


designed for IBM's Poughkeepsie campus, the first begun just before the official

design program had been established: the 1955 IBM Development Laboratory
and the 1956-1959 IBM Education Center. The exteriors of each building were
curtain walls of two-tone grey, enamel-coated, extruded aluminum panelsa motif echoed in several IBM buildings of the same years, notably Saarinen's
two-tone blue curtain wall for a plant in Rochester, Minnesota-broken by continuous strands of ribbon windows. The laboratory was divided into two nearly
identical wings, set at a right angle and connected by glass-enclosed walkways.
In short, it was a literal enlargement of the binuclear house26 to the scale of the

laboratory. In accordance with IBM laboratory design guidelines, the nearly


clear-span interiors were divided only by flexible partition walls, and services
were brought in through suspended modular ceilings.

16

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The Education Center was built to house training programs for up to 700
"customer executives, IBM salesmen and service engineers, and customer engineers" at a time, as a place to "study the application, use and maintenance of
various IBM data processing machines and systems."27 The large thirty-foot bays

and light steel structure allowed for clear spans in the interior, which on the
ground floor is divided into two sections on the east and west sides of the build-

ing, separated by hallways and an auditorium on the south side. Recalling


Noyes's own home, completed as the Education Center was begun in 1956, it is
essentially a two-wing program compressed into a single large volume, organized around a central courtyard.28 The cultivated, ordered garden of the court-

yard, surrounded by cloisterlike glass-walled hallways at ground level, was set


in stark contrast to the surrounding landscape, which was left more or less "as
is." Thus, the "square doughnut" of the plan was focused inward, the patterned
exterior mediating between the disordered landscape outside and the flexible,
open interior organized around a central, ordered, and meditative landscape
inside. The two wings were loosely divided by function: the eastern half of the
Education Center housed multiple classrooms and services, while the west side
featured a cafeteria, offices, and a large open space for company exhibitions.
This last space was to become a near-universal requisite for IBM branch
offices across the United States and beyond. In the 1950s and 1960s Noyes, in
conjunction with the Eameses and George Nelson, designed display systems
and drafted content for traveling IBM exhibitions intended to teach employees
and clients about the company's new products and services.29 Lightweight,
easily transported, and flexibly rearranged, these aluminum-framed exhibits
were erected in lobbies and sales offices with frequency and regularity, often
accompanied by engineers and female models as demonstrators. More than anything else, the corporate environment in the Education Center and beyond was
a didactic one (again, literally one of Noyes and Watson's "parallel communication paths")-an ordered informational space set apart from the external environment and turned in upon itself. It was through this organizational logic-the
monastic/domestic-turned-corporate environment-that IBM was to be able to
define, defend, and extend itself. And, perhaps more important, it was understood as an environment in which

0--' -00_' t0P^ ..- -.- humans could safely and effective
interact with and integrate themselves

== e- -= -_- with machines.

. ~ - -- =--~ -; . Noyes extended th


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-i - - -- ,_ L ^ ''' er jects for IBM. In the IBM Aerospace

- - - :G:: wOpposite, top: Eliot Noyes and


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Laboratory, Poughkeepsie, 1955.

Opposite, bottom: Eliot Noyes

a0 :::. fj l ? i, trand Associates. IBM Education


.0 .:' - E 3'4 i :AStp 0' 0 . i^ i Center, Poughkeepsie, 1956-59.
. 11P;A t Opoi...B~ , ? ;: tRight: Eliot Noyes and

.< C:?^^^^^ ; d':.:-'; . r,;!0 : aAssociates. IBM Education

7 0 ? ::' ;:' : '4ii' Center, Poughkeepsie, 1956-59.

17

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Headquarters in Los Angeles (1964), which he designed in conjunction with the


California architect-engineer duo Quincy Jones and Frederick Emmons, the
courtyard as a representation of environmental control is no longer an actual
courtyard but rather a courtyard turned literally inside out. In the interior the
representation of an ordered counter-environment is created not by a cultivated
garden but with a modular pattern, the extension of the geometry and organizational logic of the Poughkeepsie courtyard to cover and enclose the entire building. Held by a structural steel cage sitting on massive concrete "tree" columns at

its base, the strongly patterned concrete "window wall" panels-which create
the impression on the exterior that the building is a giant three-dimensional
punch card-focus attention inward by simultaneously representing the information patterns of the work at hand and denying coherent views to the exterior.
That Noyes saw the panels as an extension of the courtyard design logic is made

more explicit by the fact that he tested the Aerospace Headquarters design by
erecting a mock-up panel on the glass wall of the courtyard of his own house in

New Canaan-the patterned wall panels had an effect similar to that of looking
into an ordered garden or cloister.30
In the IBM Branch Office at Garden City, New York, of the same year, Noyes

pushed this window-wall to an almost perverse extreme, by nearly eliminating


windows altogether. The narrow slivers of glazing, running perpendicular to the

wall surface behind the projecting concrete rectangles, have the effect in the
interior of transforming the window into something like a modular fluorescent
light fixture (and this only on sunny days). As with the Poughkeepsie buildings,

Noyes's IBM buildings in the early 1960s are paradigmatic of the whole of IBM's

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-' ..

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building program-the IBM counterenvironment. From Marcel Breuer's IBM


France Research and Development Laboratory (1960-1962) to Paul Rudolph's
manufacturing, engineering, and administration megaplex (1963) in East Fishkill,

New York, the sleek curtain walls of Noyes and Saarinen give way to roughly
textured, austere-looking reinforced concrete structures. This change in appear-

ance apparently coincided with an industry-wide "assault on Fortress IBM."31

By 1963 IBM was right on target, achieving Watson's goals of the 1950s and
pushing way beyond even the most optimistic expectations. It controlled over
70 percent of the computer market in the United States; however, several competitors-including Sperry Rand, RCA, Honeywell, and several newcomerswere attempting to unseat it, and it was plagued by constant government
antitrust suits. IBM had itself become a target-not only of its competitors but
also of the federal judiciary (though the legislative and executive branches had
a more lenient attitude toward IBM because of its constant willingness and
ability to collaborate on high-priority Cold War military projects). IBM was also
embarking on the extremely high-risk venture of marketing a modular, intermachine-compatible computer array: the System/360. Under immense financial

pressure,32 the corporation installed a new, centralized Real Estate and


Construction Division to oversee its still massive expansion program, which
would cut costs by providing more pragmatic and "humble" facilities.
This state of affairs also demanded a change in image. As John Morris Dixon
put it, writing for the Architectural Forum in 1966,

"IBM apparently decided that an image of wealth


was a liability.... Stories abound of carpet removed

or fine wood painted over."33 In other words, Noyes's


reinforced concrete window-walls were not just

cheap; they were strategic. Beyond the creation of


the new real estate division, IBM's design strategy

had actually changed very little. Or, more precisely,

the IBM design logic had been radicalized-moved

toward its limit case.

The patterns of Saarinen's and Noyes's curtain


walls were not gone; rather, they had embedded

themselves in the thick reinforced concrete walls of

the new buildings. This is attested to by the fact that

two photographs of IBM France, a tree column and

Opposite: Eliot Noyes and


Associates, Quincy Jones,
and Frederick Emmons.

IBM Aerospace Headquarters,

Los Angeles, 1964.

Right: Eliot Noyes and


Associates. IBM Branch Office,

Garden City, New York, 1964.

Ha

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oom 19

a shot along the length of its curved concrete facade, as well as a photograph
of the Noyes-designed IBM System/360 computer, appear in Gyorgy Kepes's
The Man-Made Object (1966).34 The well-known series of books that Kepes
edited for the publisher George Braziller in the mid- to late 1960s are documents

of the application of such scientific concepts as system and communication theory and Gestalt psychology to the understanding of the arts and humanities.
Within this context images such as the photographs of Breuer's buildings and
Noyes's and IBM's computers were to be understood as efficient, satisfactory,
and even poetic solutions to design problems because they operated at the level
of metaphor, in the sense noted above. The patterns of the facades of both build-

ing and computer were to be read as figuring the process of organization and
"pattern recognition" going on inside. However, it is important to note that here

design achieves this representational operation only at the level of metaphor,


because of its literal opacity, its refusal or inability to present the counterenvironment within. As Noyes wrote of his own concrete curtain walls:
[D]etails must play their part in relation to the overall concept and character

of the building, and are the means by which the architect may underline
his main idea, reinforce it, echo it, intensify or dramatize it.... I like
details ... to be simple, practical, efficient, articulate, appropriate, neat,
handsome, and contributory to the clarity of all relationships.
The converse of this is that the spectator may observe and enjoy details,

and find in them an extension of his experience and understanding of the


architecture. In them he should be able to read, or at least see reflected,
the character and spirit of the entire building-as to see the universe in a
grain of sand.35

Noyes's statement should be taken at . . .....

face value; his concrete walls are a


dramatization of the "character" of his

buildings. They are "contributory to


the clarity of all relationships" insofar
as they clearly demarcate and separate
interior from exterior, and announce

this fact on the very surfaces of the

buildings through a manipulation of


pattern in depth and radical opacity.
However, one should again note that
the facades only "reflect" patterns; it is
thus of interest that Noyes says nothing

20

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of the interior-the space for which his introverted "courtyard" design logic had

been developed.
The stakes of Noyes's radicalization of the boundary between exterior and
interior can be most clearly seen in another addition to the IBM Poughkeepsie
campus: the "white room." This was a temporary building (now destroyed)"a shack," according to one of the IBM Design Department engineers36-erected
near the development lab, with blank white walls, floor, and ceiling. Noyes built
it as a setting for photographing all IBM products for catalogues, ads, and exhi-

bitions. It was also the site of semiannual design critiques, when Noyes gathered together the IBM design team and his fellow consultants (Eames, Nelson,
Rand, Kaufmann) to evaluate work in progress on all of IBM's products. Beyond
its futuristic "clean room" aesthetic appeal, it is clear that Noyes considered the

"white room" a space in and through which IBM could most efficiently communicate its capacity to control information-a noiseless space, almost hermetically sealed, devoid of unwanted environmental stimulus.
Here at last, in the form of a totalizing anti- or counterenvironment, was the

"objectivity, impersonality, and neutrality of the machine" demanded by


Mumford in the Organic Design catalogue. The problem of designing the space
of interaction between humans and machines had been reduced to a minimax

equation: if the problem of communication was a matter of reducing interference by "smoothing" the space through which the message passed, the problem
of ergonomics was a matter of eliminating any environmental stimulus. The
reduction of the counterenvironment to machines organized on a grid pattern
on a white field and surrounded by white walls provides an image of a design
logic taken to its limit with rigor. In an effort to support the mechanisms of control, design, conceived of as an act of creating an ideal space for the interaction

of human and machine, finds itself, under the

V : requirements of the same logic, attempting to


effect the elimination of the space separating the
two. It is this desire for a space or system of total

control that motivates the design logic of the


Westinghouse Tele-Computer Center, an architec-

Real-time computing as a technological possibility


began, in fact, with IBM's commission (in conjunction with MIT and numerous other corporations)

Opposite: Marcel Breuer.


IBM Research and Development

Laboratory, La Gaude, France,


1960-62. Published in The Man-

Made Object, 1966.

Right: Comparison of the IBM


System/360 Computer to a
"Shaker Room" Published in

_ ' :::' The Man-Made Object, 1966.

21

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from the United States Air Force to protect the country against a surprise Soviet

air attack. The program, called Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE),


begun in 1951 and fully operational by 1963, was based on the desire for
semi-automatic control of the basic environment in which the organization (here the Air Defense Command) does business, which every real-time

system is about.... It does the job with a network of radar-fed computers


that continuously analyze every cubic foot of air space around the United
States, instantly track all airborne objects approaching the country, and
call for appropriate action.37

The SAGE computers-the first to make extensive use of magnetic memory


cores and parallel processing38-were directly hooked up to radar installations
distributed across the periphery of North America and housed in massive windowless concrete buildings. Four stories high, with a four-acre footprint, these
identical bunkerlike installations were mostly filled with hardware and its requisite services (redundant power generators and cooling plants). However, they
ANALYSIS AND Direction centers typically were

COMMUNCATION
TRAINING AND four-story buildings with
RECORDINGTRAININGA
AND
MONITORING BATTLE STATION plans similar to this one. The SA;G
AND VHF d j FSQ-7 duplex computers occupied
MANUAL I\fl''^l^^l ^ RADAR MAPPING the entire second floor. Air cooling

INPUTS--^. ..^^IS^.-^Rr^^ y^ and ducting equipment was located

AIR SURVEILLANCE on the first floor, along with


telephone frames, cables, and
equipment needed to maintain

FOURTH communications and radar data


FLOOR flow. The power house was

attached to the op
the building by a

the

first

floor.

WEAPONS/ floor was a service area for the

Mos

DIRECTION IDENTIFICATION ROOM operations room above, and also

MAINTENANCE' l contained office and storage space,

the subsector command post, and


the Kelvin-Hughes projector and
air-situation display screen. The
fourth floor of the center housed
the operational areas, where air

THIRD force staff supervised each of the


FLOOR major air-defense functions

PLENUM

PLENUMj"

^s.'^^^

(weapons

-lE

'^^^^B

PROJECTOR

C3OLINGLTELEP LENM TELHQNE FiA\M E

MAINT PHOeEQUNCIPMENT AREA


POWER
/ <

SUPPLIES

AIR CONDITIONING ~
CONTROL ARE

FIRST
FLOOR
EQUIPMENT COOLING

MAINTENANCE AREA

PLENUM

EQUIPMENT

COOLING FILTER PLENUM

MAINTENANCE AREA MEZZANINE


POWER
HOUSE
MAINTENANCE
TEST AREA HEATER
BOILER \

GENERATORS

22

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direction,

areas.s~

(Iai

nKELVIN

Shuman,

also required operators-after all, a semiautomatic rifle is only semiautomatic


in the sense that it needs a human being to pull the trigger-who sat at the radar
screens tracking the aircraft, interacting with the computers via light guns, in

an environment wholly blank save for the technology itself. Located inside the
SAGE bunkers, and thus inside the computer itself, these "blue rooms," so called
because the only light emanated from the cathode-ray displays of the computer
terminals, were spaces wholly defined by the logic of real-time management of
airspace. Despite their locations at discrete points, these semiautomatic counterenvironments were topologically pulled together into a more or less seamless
network, both at the technological level of information flow and at the level of
architecture. However, the paradox is self-evident: these blue rooms, connected
only to other blue rooms and their weaponized extensions (anti-aircraft installations, fighter squadrons), extend control over the "ground environment"-the
defensible territory-only as they segregate themselves spatially as thoroughly
as possible from that environment, behind the thick concrete walls of the bunker.
It is not possible to conduct a process of extension without the outside that
extension implies. The

tectural) closing off o

APH LEA(AR A- C ENTE R

AEWPN I w EAUAo-TERS /| / ". S

counterenvironment of the SAGE bunkers

from its territorial surroundings thus corresponds to a desire to close off that territory
from its wider surroundings.
Real-time technology, even in the context
of business, as the application of the dynam-

4PA T / PICKET SHIP 1 / I\ -PKS


TEXASSTOWER ATS

ADJACET

S | WEASPOS / |DOf RECTION

jFLI LA S CENTER

[FLIGH,T ] PA N1

ics of ultimate speed and feedback to an


environment, is thus explicitly a phenome-

non of what Paul Virilio has called "pure


war." It is, at bottom, "strategic," in the sense
that it is simultaneously offensive and defen-

sive-a deterrent. In the constant technological advance of war, "it is no longer enough
to be quickly educated about one's surroundings; one must also educate the surroundings.

In other words, one must try to preserve,


on that very spot, one's head start over the
enemy."39 In a world in which the speed and

range of real-time management and intercontinental ballistic missiles have collapsed


markets and airspace such that everywhere

Opposite: SAGE direction center,


ca. 1959.

Right, top: Diagram of SAGE


showing command and control
operations, ca. 1959.
Right, bottom: SAGE operators
seated at consoles, ca. 1959.

The Whte Room 23

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is linked to everywhere else, the desire for a "fortress" designed to protect not
the nation but another type of body, the corporation, becomes not literally a matter

of erecting battlements and moats but a matter of strategy. The control of a


territory (here a market) is also a matter of control over time-"a head start"made possible only by the seemingly paradoxical delay, reorganization, and
redeployment of information via the newly developed memories of computers
and by the cinematic projection of images within a system of spatial enclosure
adapted to the logic of real-time management.40

Thus, despite the spiny exteriors of the buildings housing the totalizing
corporate counter-environment that he was hired to create at Westinghouse, just
as he had at IBM, Noyes's architecture is one not just of enclosure but of exten-

sion. That is, the Tele-Computer Center's opaque, and perhaps banal, exterior
may be read as an indication of its actual radical, albeit invisible, connections
to other such spaces through the spatial and temporal mechanics of real-time
management. Just as in his projects for IBM, Noyes saw the creation of a strongly

defined space for a community engaged in radically accelerated, radically mediated communication as a constituent factor in the corporation's attempt to sustain
and reproduce itself. That Noyes recognized the warlike nature of Westinghouse's

operations is certain. In his own words:


Westinghouse is easy to think of as a maker of household appliances. But
three-quarters of their business is in a vastly more important and exciting

area-the development and distribution of power. What they are doing has
implications for the safety
of the country, possibly even

the survival of the planet.

So if you start looking at

Westinghouse in those terms | | i 1 t fl ii

instead of just as a maker of ?!'. i:t


household products, you get 1:

a quite different notion about 11 1


how it ought to look.41

The

two

...........

Sperry

computers

of

the

Tele-Computer

up

360

Rand

UNIVAC

Westinghouse

Center,

offices,

linking

factories,

warehouses in real time, were l - . - :.4 :::: 'f''~


therefore required to be housed ::

in an internal domestic-monastic - ; ;:

Top: Eliot Noyes and Associates.


Westinghouse Tele-Computer
Center, with previous
Westinghouse office building in
background, near Pittsburgh, 1964.

Bottom: Eliot Noyes and


Associates. Tele-Computer -:
Center, 1964. Site plan.

24

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and

glass courtyard-both for the practical purpose of cooling the machines and for
representational reasons-accompanied by ergonomically sound Saarinen furniture and serviced by a surrounding membrane of flexible cells. And all this at
the center of a building set at some remove from Westinghouse corporate headquarters located in the center of Pittsburgh. It can be readily compared to the air
force's headquarters in Colorado, with its rigidly modular Academy above ground

and its bunkers buried deep in the mountains, hooked up to SAGE bunkers and
radar stations just like it across the country.42

Three years after the completion of the Westinghouse Tele-Computer Center,


Noyes developed yet another set of architectural images of counterenvironments that could withstand an even more radically hostile environment, when
his office was hired as design consultant to Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space
Odyssey (1968).43 The film is a rather heavy-handed but deeply ambiguous parable about the confrontation of man with technology, from the first deadly club
to the contemporary crisis of thinking machines, moving from the desolate pri-

mordial wasteland to the utter void of outer space.

Read as such a parable, Kubrick's


film is essentially a document of a perceived environmental crisis. From the

film's space shuttle, equipped with a


modified version of Noyes's executive

plane service to allow efficient eating


in zero gravity, to the space station,
decked out with Herman Miller furni-

ture hand picked by the Noyes office,

to the computers and space suits,

outfitted with controls designed by


the Noyes office, 2001 presents, even
fetishizes-with all of the paranoia
implicit in the fetish-counterenvironmental technology. The plot of the
film is quite simply the acceleration of

technology to the point at which its


nature as "pure war" is made explicit.

ii ;:.ii EiEE;;;i;gIn the film's concluding sequence, the


astronaut Dave leaves in a space pod

Top: Skidmore, Owings and


?glsxrs~a~:::: ::i-----:~i~kWI ~b~Merrill. United States Air Force

Academy, Colorado Springs,


1956-62.

Bottom: Herbert Bayer, William


Garnett, and Skidmore, Owings
and Merrill. Exhibition display
for U.S. Air Force Academy.
Site plan, photomural, and supergraphic, 1955.

25

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for Jupiter's moon, thus winning a Pyrrhic victory in his war with the thinking
machine Hal, a supercomputer that literally transforms the self-preserving envi-

ronment of the spaceship into a hostile one. Arriving at the appointed destination of his mission, he shoots through psychedelic space at the speed of light.
But where does he end up? Isolated in a white room, fitted with a minimal and
surreal Louis XVI decor, aging rapidly, and haunted by the specters of human
technology that can be seen only as extensions of himself.
Seen from the perspective of a human body threatened by death in the face of

pure speed, Noyes's encounters with the problem of providing a counterenvironment for the acceleration of mankind and its technology in its attempt to
establish control over increasingly large and hostile environments, whether in
the case of real-time management or space travel, thus emerge as probings

toward a hypothetical limit case of architecture. These probings explicitly


acknowledge architecture as a tool for generating strategic enclosures in an
economy (and a war) of constantly shifting communication techniques and
organizational structures. Architecture, conceived of in this way, becomes
something like a cybernetic, ergonomically sound, and almost hermetically
sealed Vitruvian hut: a counterenvironment designed to preserve the human,
corporate, or national body from an ever changing, ever hostile outside.

26 Grey Room 12

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Notes

1. Gilbert Burck and the editors of Fortune, The ComputerAge and Its Potential for Management

(New York, Evanston and London: Harper & Row, 1965), 26-43.
2. Eliot F. Noyes, Organic Design in Home Furnishings (New York: Museum of Modern Art,
1941). The emphases of Noyes's architectural education at Harvard under Gropius and Breuer are
evident throughout the book, particularly in the history of modern furniture design offered at the

beginning, in which the importance of Breuer's innovations in tubular steel furniture and in
modular furniture (Typenmobel) is heavily stressed (4-9). Also, more than half the bibliography
(45-46) is given over to German works on aesthetics and architectural theory and history; most
of the remainder are works by British authors, again echoing Gropius's and Breuer's trajectory on
their way to the United States.

3. Noyes's emphasis on teamwork as a central, though not explicitly worked out, theme in the
exhibition closely parallels Gropius's growing interest in the matter and was probably taken up
directly from Gropius's teachings at the Bauhaus and at Harvard. See in particular Gropius's later
publications on the subject; e.g., Walter Gropius, The Scope of Total Architecture (1943; reprint,
New York: Harper, 1955).

4. Besides Saarinen and Eames, the winning teams were Oscar Stonorov and Willo von Moltke;
Martin Craig and Ann Hatfield; and Harry Weese and Benjamin Baldwin. Other teams were given
honorable mentions. For the entire list of categories and awards, see the inside cover, facing page,
of Noyes, Organic Design.
5. Noyes, Organic Design, n.p. The quotations are taken from Lewis Mumford, "The Assimilation

of the Machine," in Technics and Civilization (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1934), ch. 7. The
final three subheadings of the chapter from which the quotations are taken are "The Growth of
Functionalism," "The Simplification of the Environment," and "The Objective Personality," three

themes that seem to have motivated much of Noyes's subsequent work. This is also the part of
Mumford's book in which he most clearly enunciates his theory of a newly emerging, and inherently complex, mechanical and informational environment: "we need to guard ourselves against
the fatigue of dealing with too many objects or being stimulated unnecessarily by their presence,
as we perform the numerous offices they impose. Hence a simplification of the externals of the

mechanical world is almost a prerequisite for dealing with its internal complications. To reduce
the constant succession of stimuli, the environment itself must be made as neutral as possible"
(357). It is thus the role of the designer to effect this "simplification," in effect to generate a
counter-environment at the level of the outside ("the externals") of the machine.
6. The label "ergonomics" was applied only in the mid-1960s as an umbrella term for a wide range
of scientific practices concerning the relationship between machines and the human body, includ-

ing anthropometrics and "human engineering." For the first authoritative contemporary overview
of the subject, see K.F.H. Murrell, Ergonomics (London: Chapman and Hall, 1965).

7. From his first experience flying gliders on an archaeological dig in Iran in 1934-1935, Noyes
maintained a lifelong fascination with flight. This and the following information about Noyes's
early career and initial encounter with Watson were obtained in interviews with Noyes's daughter
Mary Brust (25 February 2002), his son Frederick Noyes (28 February 2002), and his former
secretary Sandy Garsson (27 February 2002).
8. Letters in the Archives of American Art (Breuer 5711/0256), dating from 22 July to 16 October

Harwood I The White Room 27

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1947, document the Noyes-Breuer partnership in architecture and industrial design.


9. The account of Watson's reorganization and redirection of IBM is summarized from Emerson
W. Pugh, Building IBM: Shaping and Industry and Its Technology (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995);
and Robert Sobel, Part II: "The Computer Wars," I.B.M.: Colossus in Transition (New York: Times
Books, 1981).
10. Related in Thomas J. Watson Jr. and Peter Petre, Father, Son & Co. (New York: Bantam,
1994), 258: "The Olivetti material was filled with color and excitement and fit together like a beau-

tiful picture puzzle. Ours looked like directions on how to make bicarbonate of soda." In all likelihood Watson is referring to the numerous advertisements and catalogues produced by the
modernist graphic and industrial designer Marcello Nizzoli, who worked at Olivetti from 1938

onward. Watson had also seen the newly unveiled Olivetti showroom in Manhattan, in the
former Pepsi-Cola building at 500 Park Avenue (designed by SOM), which was designed by BBPR
in 1953-1954. On Olivetti's design program, see Patrizia Bonifazio and Paolo Scrivano, Olivetti

Builds: Modern Architecture in Ivrea, Guide to the Open Air Museum (Ivrea and New York:
Olivetti, 2001).
11. Watson and Petre, 259.
12. Watson and Petre, 260.

13. This staged transparency was echoed in Noyes's industrial designs for IBM's computers as

well. The RAMAC computer, unveiled in 1956, featured a clear glass panel that revealed the
brightly colored moving parts of the computer's exciting new feature, "random-access memory."

See Arthur Gregor, "Ramac: An IBM Case Study; IBM Develops Its Random-Access Memory
Accounting Machine," Industrial Design 4, no. 3 (March 1957): 54-57.
14. Watson and Petre, 260.
15. From Thomas J. Watson Jr., in A Business and Its Beliefs: The Ideas That Helped Build IBM,

(New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963), 59-60.


16. Watson and Petre, 260.

17. Quoted in Scott Kelly, "Curator of corporate character ... Eliot Noyes and Associates,"
Industrial Design 13, no. 5 (June 1966): 43; emphasis added.
18. Hugh B. Johnston, "From Old IBM to New IBM," Industrial Design 4, no. 3 (March 1957):

48-53; emphasis added.


19. Eliot Noyes, "A Sign Study for IBM," Architectural Record 127, no. 7 (June 1960): 150-164.
20. Johnston, 51.

21. For a more developed theoretical investigation of the relationship between the design of
IBM's computers and its buildings, see Reinhold Martin, "Computer Architectures: Saarinen's
Patterns, IBM's Brains," in Anxious Modernisms: Experimentation in Postwar Architectural
Culture, ed. Sarah Williams Goldhagen and R6jean Legault (Montreal and Cambridge: Canadian
Centre for Architecture and MIT Press, 2000), 141-164.

22. For an account of IBM's expansion in these years, see Henry Bakis, I.B.M.: Une multinationale r6gionale (Grenoble: Presses Universitaires de Grenoble, 1977); Pugh, Building IBM;

and Sobel.

23. For broad overviews of the various IBM commissions in these years, see "IBM's New
Corporate Face," Architectural Forum 106 (February 1957): 106-114; Paul R. Damaz, "Les Constructions

I.B.M.," Architecture d'aujourd'hui 34 (December 1963-January 1964): 40-50; and John Morris

28 Grey Room 12

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Dixon, "I.B.M. Thinks Twice," Architectural Forum 124, no. 2 (March 1966): 32-39.
24. Here I apply, at least in part, Marshall McLuhan's definition of metaphor, which is developed in response to "the rise of the idea of transportation as communication, and then the transition of the idea from transport to information by means of electricity. The word 'metaphor' is
from the Greek meta plus pherein, to carry across or transport.... Each form of transport not only

carries, but translates and transforms, the sender, the receiver, and the message." See McLuhan,

Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964), 91. Viewed from
this perspective, architecture conceived of as the vehicle (not quite sender, receiver, or message
but rather an environmental enclosure for all three) of communication-as it is in the case of IBM
and later at Westinghouse-would have been understood as "translated and transformed" by the
very process of that communication. The use here of "pattern recognition" as a mode of cognition is also drawn from Understanding Media, where McLuhan makes frequent reference to IBM
as a company "in the business of processing information" (e.g., 24).
25. The term "counterenvironment" is also McLuhan's, first deployed in his essay "The Invisible
Environment: The Future of an Erosion," Perspecta 11 (1967): 164-167, and further developed in
McLuhan and Harley Parker, Through the Vanishing Point: Space in Poetry and Painting (New
York: Harper & Row, 1968), in the essays "Sensory Modes" (1-31) and "The Emperor's New Clothes"

(237-291). However, here it has been reappropriated. Rather than accepting his "New Critical"
use of the concept to describe a metaphorical, mental "landscape" or "space" generated by the
work of art from which the consequences of emerging social and technical relations may be gauged,

the term is used here to conceptualize a designed space that is closed off from its surroundings
and only linked to like spaces via specific media (e.g., real-time computing). As such, the term is

not used entirely disingenuously, since it simply places increased emphasis on the closure
implied by the prefix counter- and is consonant with McLuhan's interest in describing a mode of
cognition that offers the potential for the control of external environments via an independently

conceived logical system.


26. A house type developed by modernist architects during and shortly after World War II,
perhaps most notably by Marcel Breuer, in which the plan was divided into two wings, distinct in

function, connected by an entrance, walkway, or carport. Noyes had designed just such a house in

conjunction with Breuer, the Kniffin House (1949) in New Canaan, Connecticut. See "Sloping
Site for House Facilitates Zoned Plan," Architectural Record 114 (September 1953): 159-163.

27. "Clarity, Cohesiveness, Good Detail; IBM Education Center, Poughkeepsie, New York,"
Architectural Record 126 (September 1959): 199-204.
28. Noyes's second house in New Canaan is probably his most famous architectural work. It
was published repeatedly in the architectural and popular press, winning praise for its power-

fully simple integration of a binuclear plan into a single, enclosed volume; see, for example,
"House, New Canaan, Connecticut," Progressive Architecture 35 (January 1954): 122; "House:
New Canaan, Connecticut," Progressive Architecture 37 (December 1956): 98-105; John Peter,
"The New Early American Look in Home Living," Look 20, no. 8 (17 April 1956): 72-73; and John
Peter, "For Women Only," Look 20, no. 8 (17 April 1956): 76.

29. On IBM's exhibition designs, see James H. Carmel, Exhibition Techniques, Traveling and
Temporary (New York: Reinhold, 1962), 62-63, 111, 164-168; Karl Kaspar, International Shop
Design (London: Thames and Hudson, 1967), 74-77; George Nelson, Display (1953; reprint, New

Harwood I The White Room 29

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York: Whitney Publications, 1956); and The Office of Charles and Ray Eames, A Computer Perspective:
Background to the Computer Age, 2nd ed. (1973; reprint, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990).

30. This effect is attested to-and naturalized, vis-a-vis the architectural press-by Noyes in
a presentation of his work for IBM in the 1960s in Architectural Record: "It felt very good, and
reminded me of the kind of window wall one encounters in India, so perforated that it is indeed
both wall and window at once. It also had some of the quality of an old-fashioned back porch,
enclosed in wooden latticework." See Eliot Noyes, "A Continuing Study of the Window Wall by
Eliot Noyes," Architectural Record 141, no. 4 (April 1967): 173-180.
31. See Burck and the editors of Fortune, ch. 4 ("The 'Assault' on Fortress I.B.M."). The authors
argue that in fact IBM is and was in little danger of losing its position as the largest and most prof-

itable computer corporation. However, they also point out the risks associated with IBM's con-

temporary massive investment in the new, modular System/360 computers. See also Pugh,
Building IBM, ch. 18.
32. In the years after 1957 IBM floated debts greater than its net worth, betting that its new

products and its death grip on the market would ensure that the corporation doubled in size
roughly every five years. In addition to Watson and Petre, see William B. Harris, "The Astonishing
Computers," Fortune 55 (June 1957): 136-139, 292, 294, 296, 298; and Francis Bello, "The War of

the Computers," Fortune 59 (October 1959), pp. 128-132, 160, 164, 166, 171.
33. Dixon, 36.

34. Gyorgy Kepes, ed., The Man-Made Object (New York: George Braziller, 1966). The photo
of the System/360 computer, juxtaposed in a two-page spread with a spare interior titled
"Furnishings of a Shaker Room," appears on 21. The IBM France photographs accompany Breuer's
short essay, "Genesis of Design," in The Man-Made Object, ed. Kepes, 120-125.

35. Eliot Noyes, "Architectural Details [7]," Architectural Record 139 (January 1966): 121;
emphasis added. It is interesting to note that Noyes says nothing here of structure, and that his

details, though presented in the context of a professional journal in which such details are
generally treated as structural matters, are the nonstructural window-wall panels. These panels,
in each case, are essentially suspended on the wall using a reinforced concrete version of curtainwall technology.
36. James LaDue, interview, 19 June 2002.
37. Burck and the editors of Fortune, 31ff.

38. For a detailed history of the development of the SAGE computer systems, especially in
regard to their use of magnetic memory cores, see Emerson W. Pugh, Memories That Shaped an
Industry: Decisions Leading to IBM System/360 (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1984), esp. ch. 4. On the
importance of parallel processing for the real-time coordination of information from radar, see

John F. Jacobs, "History of the Design of the SAGE Computer-The AN/FSQ-7," Annals of the
History of Computing 5, no. 4 (October 1983): 340-349.

39. Paul Virilio, Popular Defense & Ecological Struggles (New York: Semiotext(e), 1990): 15;
emphasis in original.
40. Here it might be helpful to point out an often overlooked discrepancy between the meaning of the noun real time and the adjective real-time derived from it. The first is either "the actual

time in which a physical process under computer study or control occurs [or] the time required
for a computer to solve a problem, measured from the time data are fed in to the time a solution is

30 Grey Room 12

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received." The adjective, however, elides any such reference to a concrete, measurable, "actual
time": "of or relating to computer systems that update information at the same rate as they receive

data, enabling them to direct or control a process such as an automatic pilot." That is, "real time"
has to do with time, whereas "real-time" connotes a rate, speed. The real time of the Westinghouse
Tele-Computer Center is not, as is evident from the Fortune anecdote, that of time but rather that

of speed ("distant answers shot back in seconds"). However, despite the high speed of these realtime management transactions, it is nonetheless critical to note that the fundamental basis of real-

time computing lies within the dimension of time-delay. Information is taken from the
environment, here the corporation itself and the market within which it operates, stored in the
computer's electromagnetic memory core, and only later (sometimes only a fraction of a second,

but nonetheless a measurable amount of [real] time) retrieved and processed in parallel-at the
same time-with other connected or relevant pieces of information. Lastly, this information
processed in "real time" is rendered into a visual-textual image on a screen in a dimly lit space
already specifically tailored for the decision-making responses of "real-time management." That
is, this delay, in which information from elsewhere is brought inside the computer, its movement

stalled until it can be recombined with other bits of information and then made visible on a
screen, constitutes the locus of the act of organization in real time. This delay is difficult to rec-

ognize for two reasons: On the one hand, it occurs constantly, as information is updated at the
same rate as it is gathered; on the other, the speed of the process during which it occurs is so fast

that its gaps are almost literally imperceptible. The delay, the "real time" of "real-time computing" is thus rendered imperceptible to the human sensorium by the familiar tactics of cinematic
projection. Compare with Paul Virilio, War and Cinema: The Logistics of Perception, trans. Patrick

Camiller (London and New York: Verso, 1989), 6: "There is no war, then, without representation,

no sophisticated weaponry without psychological mystification. Weapons are tools not just of
destruction but also of perception-that is to say, stimulants that make themselves felt through
chemical, neurological processes in the sense organs and the central nervous system, affecting
human reactions and even the perceptual identification and differentiation of objects."
41. Kelly; emphasis added.
42. Though images and accounts of top-secret NORAD bunkers are in short supply, it is known
that the SAGE system was divided into twenty-three sectors (twenty-two in the United States and

one in Canada), each with its own "direction centers," plus one central direction center at NORAD
in Colorado. For a personal account of a visit to one such NORAD SAGE installation, buried 600
feet underground in North Bay, Ontario, see Henry S. Tropp, "SAGE at North Bay," Annals of the
History of Computing 5, no. 4 (October 1983): 401-403.
43. Gordon Bruce (a former partner in Noyes and Associates), interview, 2 April 2002. The "on-set"

designer for 2001 was Noyes's partner Ernest Bevilacqua. On Bevilacqua's role in the office, see Kelly,

38-39. IBM engineers also helped design the appearances and interfaces of the numerous computers depicted in the film. See Frederick I. Ordway III, "2001: A Space Odyssey in Retrospect"
(1970); available from: http://www.visual-memory.co.uk/amk/doc/0075.html. Ordway was scientific
consultant and technical adviser to the film. Noyes's office, apparently on the strength of their con-

vincing designs for 2001, was later hired by North American Rockwell to design the Skylab Space
Station in 1971. The office performed a "Habitability Study" for Rockwell on how to coordinate the
normal functions of daily life with a vehicle that generated gravitational forces via the Coriolis effect.

Harwood T The White Room 31

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