Mid-Century Modern Midtown

Taking Care of HOK’s Works on Lindell

by Michael R. Allen

This week St. Louis University’s removal of the concrete block screens on the former IBM Building has visited the main elevation on Lindell Boulevard. Late in June, the university started removing the crucial architectural design feature on this early Hellmuth Obata & Kassabaum-designed office building, which dates to 1959 (see “SLU Picks Apart HOK”, July 1). Located at 3800 Lindell Boulevard and now called Adorjan Hall, the former IBM Building is part of a district of mid-century modern buildings built on Lindell Boulevard between 1945 and 1977.

The Lindell Boulevard modernism corridor includes Hellmuth Obata & Kassabaum’s earlier Sperry-Rand Building (1956) at Lindell and Sarah. That building has a similar modular plan to the IBM Building, with overhanging upper floors, clear-span window bays and very similar bay widths.  Like the IBM Building, the Sperry-Rand Building gains its significance less from its own design than from its role in the larger Lindell Boulevard context. This plain, elegant International Style-inspired office block escaped the CVS demolition threat that has now taken aim at the W.A. Sarmiento-designed AAA Building at 3915 Lindell Boulevard (1976). Despite the drug store chain’s looking elsewhere, the fate of the Sperry-Rand Building is far from certain. Given the hatchet job being endured by the IBM Building, even preservation of the building could be a veiled threat.

5 replies on “Taking Care of HOK’s Works on Lindell”

I probably agree with your point of view 99% of the time, but I find myself thinking that the ex-IBM building looks better without the brick.  Clad in the brick screens, this 3-story building looked squat and heavy, compared to the light, airy feel conveyed by the remodel. In fact, the remodel looks very similar to the Sperry Rand structure. Put the proposition this way: how would you feel about installing brick screens on the Sperry Rand? The SLU renovation will likely keep the building in use for another 10-20 years, if not more.  While much of SLU’s midtown redevelopment consisted of clear cutting older structures for parking lots, their work in this case does preserve the mid century modernism of the Lindell corridor.

Eddie, thanks for sharing your thoughts.  I like that the Sperry-Rand and IBM buildings articulate the heavy and light sides of a very simple business block, but I’ve never had to work in either.

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