While in Garden City on Long Island, you can drive to see a brutalist structure that has been dubbed the “Fortress for Pharmaceuticals” by John Morris Dixon in “Progressive Architecture.” This building’s formal name is the Endo Pharmaceuticals Building, but it is also called Endo Laboratories.
If the corrugated concrete and baroque drama of the structure ring a bell of familiarity, it may be because you have seen some other works by architect Paul Rudolph. Rudolph’s works tend to be divisive, and Endo Labs was no exception when it was completed in 1964.
Another Controversial Design by Paul Rudolph
Today, Endo Labs is surrounded by vegetation, which makes it hard to notice unless you drive right up to it. But when the building was under construction, there was a lot of wide open space around it. The entire structure looked more imposing and dramatic as a result.
The original aim with Endo Labs’ design was, in part, to boost visibility and branding for the company. Endo Pharmaceuticals President Joseph Ushkow chose an architect who designed striking, unusual buildings because he wanted it to stand out from Meadowbrook Parkway.
Alas, Long Island’s green spaces were vanishing, and in 1964, Ushkow found himself in a clash with the Long Island State Park Commission. The commission decided to line Meadowbrook Parkway with trees, obscuring the view of the building. Ushkow declared, “I am surprised, I am shocked! They ought to put those trees where they can make better use of them.” Rudolph himself also said he was “somewhat taken aback” by the decision.
One of the workers who was planting the trees said that the purpose was to conceal an eyesore; but the Executive Secretary of the Long Island State Park Commission, Chester R. Blakelock, denied that claim. He insisted the motive was simply to put in more greenery.
A Functional Structure Built for Efficient Daily Operations
At first glance, you might think that the design of Endo Labs is fantastical, even a bit surreal. The turrets give it a touch of whimsy, simultaneously evoking associations with both industrial factories and medieval castles. Organically curved surfaces convey the subtle impression that the building is alive.
Every design choice Rudolph made was carefully thought out. Take the turrets, for example. They are not merely a fanciful decorative embellishment. While all of them are hollow, not all of them are empty. Some conceal vents, others air ducts, others staircases. By placing these elements on the outside of the structure, the interior can be more open.
Rudolph also took care to maximize natural light. The tops of the turrets are capped, but the material is translucent. That way, light can still get through to the interior.
Originally, manufacturing took place on the bottom floor. Upstairs were labs and offices, and on the roof, a garden. Other features included a cafeteria and exercise runs for the animals the company used in its experiments.
Architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable wrote in The New York Times, “There is a heady effect of rugged exotic beauty . . . efficient and economical, and the exhilarating result is a definitive argument for art and excellent in the practice of construction. Buildings like this are the real legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier.”
The Endo Pharmaceuticals Building Today
Not all of Paul Rudolph’s buildings have fared well. Some have been demolished. Others are in danger of demolishment. But Endo Labs has been more fortunate.
The building no longer belongs to Endo Pharmaceuticals. In 2005, Joseph Farkas, president of a real estate investment firm called Metropolitan Realty Associates LLC, purchased it, referring to it as a “unique building.” After renovating the building, he began leasing spaces to business tenants.
At the time of this writing, Google Maps shows that some of the current tenants include Lifetime Brands, Home Medical Equipment and National Seating & Mobility.
If you enjoyed learning about the Endo Laboratories building in NY, you may be intrigued by the story of the Boston Government Service Center. Another of Rudolph’s works, the service center was also divisive—but the controversy went far beyond trees and the view from a roadside. Read the full post to find out why it was referred to as “the architecture of madness” by writer Philip Nobel.
For even more on brutalist architecture, check out “Brutalist Architecture 101” and “The Imposing Brutalist Grandeur Of UW’s Red Square.”