You are here
Unum Life Insurance Company
Located on four miles west of downtown Portland, the Unum Life Insurance Company Building (formerly the Union Mutual Life Insurance Company) followed the postwar trend of corporations moving to suburban sites with plentiful automobile parking. Easy access to the Portland airport was another vital consideration for its location. This modernist building was designed by Hugh Stubbins and Associates of Boston, Massachusetts, and was completed in 1971. The structure is only 112 feet high, but its impressive length of 412 feet endows the building with extraordinary scale. Two of the four levels of the building are contained within a concrete cradle; the additional upper two levels rest on the cradle and are clad in reflective glass. Functionally, this a skyscraper laid on its side.
The building is part of a twenty-eight-acre site and sits atop a grassy hill where its glass facade reflects the surrounding natural elements. The thinness of the framing grid, as well as the mullions that move down the face of the curtain wall, create the impression of a building almost floating in the field. The mullions not only divide the surface, they also create a decorative pattern secondary to the wall of reflective glass. The sleek, radiant glass provides a sharp contrast to the concrete base. The concrete wall has extreme scale, but lacks any real density, giving the building the appearance of a cubic mirror merely resting on a concrete base, unrestrained by anything other than gravity. The interior of the building is mostly open with only a few rooms on each floor.
The Unum Life Insurance Company Building is elegant and resplendent. The horizontal “tower” is monumental modernism on the outskirts of Maine’s largest city. Even if some might think the rectangular, glass-clad structure is more appropriate in an urban environment, its stands as evidence that a refined sense of cosmopolitan style can be made pastoral.
Union Mutual was incorporated in Maine in 1848 and moved its offices to Portland in 1881. After demutualizing in 1986, Union Mutual was renamed Unum, a company now headquartered in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This Portland building remains one of the company’s worldwide offices.
Isaacson, Philip. “The Development of Modern Styles of Architecture: Roughly from 1920 to the Present,” in Maine Forms of American Architecture, edited by Deborah Thompson .Camden, ME: Downeast Magazine, 1976.
“Union Mutual Home Office Building, Portland, Maine, 1971.” Process ArchitectureNo. 10 (1979): 77-80.
If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.
SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.