The Story of Saarinen's John Deere Headquarters
by Louise A. Mozingo
Carefully tucking away "the car's fat shine" was integral to the definitive Deere & Company Administrative Center in Moline, Illinois, later renamed Deere & Company World Headquarters.
The exemplar for all subsequent corporate estates, it brought together landscape, site plan, and architecture into an elegant and commanding solution. Deere definitively proved the corporate value of the high-image, high-style suburban headquarters.
In May 1955, William A. Hewitt became president of Deere & Company, then second to International Harvester in the farm machinery business and distinctly lagging in the emerging global market. By autumn 1955, Hewitt had authored a strategic plan to bring about industry leadership "in six key indices — sales, profit ratios, quality, new designs, safety of operations, and excellence in employee, dealer, stockholder, and public relations."
As a key part of the strategy, Hewitt included, "Build a new office building."
Hewitt realized that the company's Moline location needed an extra draw in the competitive labor market of the booming postwar economy and a consolidated image to create a global corporation.
Hewitt's document decisively relegates Deere's engineers to "handle power houses, foundries, supervision of factory layouts and purchase of machine tools but not architecture," and specifically describes the new office as a "campus." It evidences Hewitt's fundamental conception of the company's new work environment as a superlative landscape, not as a utilitarian structure.
Initially Hewitt obtained "a big box of architects' prospectuses" from his friend, the top Ford executive Robert McNamara, a classmate at Berkeley and Harvard Business School, who had recently directed the completion of a new administration building.
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This article is excerpted from Pastoral Capitalism: A History of Suburban Corporate Landscapes by Louise A. Mozingo, copyright © 2011, with permission of the publisher, the MIT Press.