May 30, 2014
No architects better captured the exhilarating spirit of Southern California’s aerospace era than William Pereira and Albert C. Martin, Jr. Their corporate campuses and laboratories for General Atomics, Convair Astronautics, TRW, North American Aviation and other firms visually and symbolically defined a new industry and a new lifestyle, what David Beers memorably called the “blue sky dream”. Their signature buildings became live-action commercials intended to lure the best and brightest young aerospace scientists and engineers to Southern California, and sought to inspire the kind of thinking required to imagine the future. They said in steel, glass and concrete: this is who we are, this is what we do, this is how we do it, and this is why we do it better than our east coast competitors. They gave tangible expression to the conviction that in science as in politics, “We shape our buildings, and afterwards, our buildings shape us.”
Stuart W. Leslie is professor of the history of science and technology at the Johns Hopkins University, where he has taught since 1981. Last year he was the Lindbergh Chair at the National Air and Space Museum. He has written about the history of corporate research and development, the Cold War and American science, and most recently about laboratory design and architecture. He is now writing a history of the Johns Hopkins University, including the Applied Physics Laboratory.