In 1965 Pepsi-Cola merged with Frito-Lay to form PepsiCo, a company that was far too large for the building then serving as Pepsi’s headquarters: an iconic, but diminutive Park Avenue tower designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and completed only five years earlier. The merger motivated PepsiCo to leave Manhattan for Westchester County, locating its new headquarters on the 112-acre site of former polo grounds in the village of Purchase. In leaving New York City, PepsiCo joined numerous corporations in the 1950 and 1960s, which moved their offices out of the downtown districts of American cities to campuses in the suburbs, where land was cheap and plentiful. Telecommunications (and eventually computers) had already enabled companies to separate manufacturing from white-collar jobs, and with expanding public investment in exurban roads and other infrastructure, corporations were now able to attract desirable employees who were willing to leave the city to pursue wholly suburban lifestyles.
PepsiCo Chairman Donald M. Kendall wanted the new suburban campus to advertise the company’s success, while providing employees with an aesthetically nurturing work environment that would, it was hoped, improve employee attitudes and job performance. Kendall chose Edward Durell Stone to design the buildings and Edward Durell Stone Jr. to design the landscape.
Well known (and controversial) for his decorative approach to modernism, the elder Stone produced a scheme for PepsiCo that was sensitively sited and elegantly restful, while also planned for expansion. Occupying ten acres, Stone’s 450,000-square-foot complex is composed of seven structures, each just touching at their corners. Zoning limited the building to a height of 40 feet, so Stone set the entire complex atop mounds to enhance the structure’s prominence. The buildings were organized around a cruciform-shaped courtyard enclosed on all sides with the northern edge of the complex facing the road.
The younger Stone had only recently founded his own firm, Edward Durrell Stone Jr. and Associates (EDSA), when he began work on the PepsiCo landscape, which Kendall had proposed as a sculpture park open to employees and the public. Now encompassing 168 acres, overall landscape design comprises a series of spaces, from the formal to the intimate. At the entrance, a long, straight drive bifurcating an expansive lawn leads up to the building. A strip of lawn and rows of trees extend down the open, north arm of the cross-like courtyard, ending in the center, where a plaza-like space features a large fountain with David Wynne’s Girl with a Dolphin. This formality emphasizes the scale of the architecture and the corporation’s successful presence. It is juxtaposed with the pastoral landscapes that surround the other three sides of the building. A landscape of rolling lawns and trees surrounds the buildings and the south lawn offers a full vista of the architectural complex. Placed throughout the landscape are large sculptures as well as a series of gardens with small ponds to be enjoyed by those strolling the grounds. The building’s three closed courtyards each have sunken gardens with trees and shrubs and, in the middle courtyard, a small pond. Each of the sunken gardens also contains sculpture.
Equally important to the landscape design was Stone Jr.’s quest to “dethrone the automobile,” which meant separating the parking lot from the building complex, so that employees meandered through the formal landscape before arriving at their offices. To enhance this separation, Stone obscured the parking lot from view with a screen of trees. Land and building merged, leading employees inside mounds to underground corridors. Inside the complex, they could hold meetings or relax in one of three interior courtyards. At lunchtime, employees might find themselves in a panoramic landscape garden—in the style of eighteenth-century England—with trees in a broad lawn, or walking through informal meadows, or on a beech-lined path encircling a lake. They could dine under plane trees beside the cafeteria, or sit beside a fountain, or a Calder, a Giacometti, a Dubuffet, a Miro, or another work by one of the major sculptors of the twentieth century in what is now known as the Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Garden. At the end of the day, employees had a final opportunity to decompress as they once again passed through the lush grounds walking towards their cars.
The environmental sensitivity that EDSA brought to the PepsiCo campus was not limited to the aesthetics experience of the workplace. The firm also provided ecosystem services and encouraged ecological stewardship of the PepsiCo site. For example, the EDSA design filtered runoff from surfaces and rooftops into a small lake that used the perimeter road as a dam; this meant that water was cleaned before it flowed to a nearby brook. Plants for the gardens were grown in an on-site nursery—with plants also made available to employees—and 6,000 new trees were planted. Upon completion of the design, EDSA supplied a “Design and Maintenance” manual to guide future landscape work.
The company moved to its new campus in 1970, and PepsiCo leaders soon reported a lower turnover and a drop in absenteeism among employees who had daily contact with the building and especially the grounds, including the daily exposure to art. In 1981, Chairman Kendall hired garden designer Russell Page to unify the grounds and his growing sculpture collection. Page balanced and ordered the vegetation to reveal framed vistas. He and Kendall worked together to site new sculptures in careful consideration of the whole composition, creating full-scale mockups to test sculpture locations around the campus. In order to allow visitors to experience all of the sculptures on a single circuit, Page created a “golden path” of amber pebbles. Page used his horticultural skills to envision the campus gardens as an arboretum, curating a living collection of interesting groupings of trees, and adding a formal garden with aquatic plants, perennials, and flowering trees.
In 2012, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that PepsiCo would spend $243 million to renovate, modernize, and expand their headquarters—the first renovation since the original design. The renovated design aimed to decrease water use by 57 percent and decrease energy consumption by 22 percent. The grounds and sculpture garden—normally free and open to the public—were closed during renovations, and when they opened again in 2017, public access was limited to weekends.
Antman, Rachel. “The Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens.” New York Times, September 29, 2006.
American Society of Landscape Architects. “The Landmark Award.” Accessed July 16, 2015. www.asla.org.
Howett, Catherine. “Pepsico reconsidered.” Landscape Architecture79, no. 3 (1989): 82.
“Governor Cuomo Announces Pepsico To Modernize And Expand Its Worldwide Headquarters In Westchester, Retaining 1,100 Jobs.” States News Service, October 26, 2012.
Lapides, Jim. “PepsiCo World Headquarters Wins 2009 Landmark Award.” Business Wire, May 19, 2009.
Mozingo, L.A. Pastoral Capitalism: A History of Suburban Corporate Landscapes. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011.
Nobile, Phil. “Purchase’s Pepsico Demolition, Renovations Underway.” The Harrison Review, March 6, 2014.
PepsiCo Inc. Corporate website. “Our History.” Accessed July 16, 2015. www.pepsico.com.
Phemister, Molly. “Biography of Edward Stone, Jr.” The Cultural Landscape Foundation. Accessed July 16, 2015. www.tclf.org.
Stamp, Jimmy. “The Architectural History of Pepsi-Cola, Part 2: Edward Durell Stone and the Corporate Campus.” Smithsonian,September 16, 2013.
“Suburban Office Buildings.” Architectural Record, 151 (1972): 114.
Zukin, Sharon. Landscapes of Power: From Detroit to Disney World. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.