Sign of the Times: Economy Forces Steelcase to Vacate Its Iconically Weird HQ

Steelcase Pyramid

It’s been a gruesome couple of years for Steelcase, one of the country’s biggest office furniture manufacturers–in 2008, their profits evaporated, dropping by 99%; in 2009, sales have plummeted again and they’re bleeding cash. And finally, to add symbolic insult to monetary injury, the company has been forced to vacate its iconically hideous headquarters in Kentwood, Michigan. Steelcase says no jobs will be lost in the move, even though it came about due to under-utilization (the brunt of the layoffs has already occurred).

There’s no word yet on what will happen to the Pyramid–it was part and parcel of the company itself, housing the design offices, test labs, and various management functions. Despite what its outward appearance suggests, it wasn’t the product of a drunken office park developer. As MLive reports, the building was completed in 1989 for $111 million, after an intensive, five-year process that comprised over 300 meetings with everyone from architects to psychologists. (Egyptian engineers even visited the place, to appraise its architecture.) At the time, Steelcase touted it as the furniture industry’s most progressive research facility, with features including a sound-proof room to test how much noise the products generated.

But maybe this move is a good thing: What was once cutting edge now seems utterly dated, from the outside at the very least. For now, the former Pyramid denizens will move to Steelcase’s nearby corporate offices.

[Wood TV via Core 77, and MLive; image via Wikipedia Commons]

Herman Miller Posts Gruesome Q4 Earnings