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IBM Corporate Office Building

Photograph by Steve Rosenthal © Historic New England, from the Steve Rosenthal Collection of Commissioned Work at Historic New England.

In 1977, Nestlé, the Swiss food conglomerate, asked Pei to design an office complex for 1,100 employees (expandable to 1,500) with centralized testing kitchens for chocolate and other products. The 46-acre site was located in an affluent semi-rural area outside New York City. In response to residents’ concerns over growing corporate development, Pei reduced the half-million square-foot building into a cluster of smaller parts along the lines of a Palladian villa, with a central block and two flanking wings that curve back into the park-like grounds to obscure apparent bulk. A large parking garage was nestled into the hillside, behind the building, out of view. Travertine with architectural concrete spandrels answered the client’s wish to project a strong, stable image; reflective glass helped to integrate with the park-like grounds.

In 1982, Nestlé suffered a downturn and sold the building, then in construction, to IBM. Fortuitously, the 3-part configuration reflected the new owner’s corporate structure, with different divisions operating somewhat independently but relating to a central executive group. The kitchen block was converted into executive offices, an auditorium, dining, and other shared amenities. All three pavilions were designed to encourage communication with flexible office spaces organized around a large skylit atrium in each unit. Floor-to-ceiling windows bring the outdoors inside and help occupants to navigate the large building (nearly a third of a mile long) with changing panoramic views.

This building was important for Pei, as he had lost the opportunity to design a landmark IBM tower in midtown Manhattan a decade earlier and was shunned by other American corporations in the wake of the John Hancock Tower’s glass failure. The commission signaled that Pei was back in the fold. In 1994, IBM sold the building to Mastercard for its global headquarters.


Site plan / Courtesy of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners

In 1986, the building won a national Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects and an Annual Award from the Concrete Industry Board. Two years later, the Building Stone Institute conferred its Annual Tucker Award.

Design Team: I.M. Pei, Design Partner; John L. Sullivan III, Design Architect
I.M. Pei & Partners