Elion-Hitchings Building Tour: A Storify

  1. As discussed in my post last week, I had the opportunity on Saturday to tour the old Burroughs-Wellcome US headquarters building in Research Triangle Park, NC. Designed in 1969 by architect Paul Rudolph, the building was completed in 1972. The building became known as the Elion-Hitchings Building after BW scientists Trudy Elion and George Hitchings shared the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicinewith Sir James Black.The building was acquired by Glaxo when they merged with Wellcome in 1995 (Glaxo had built its US headquarters in RTP in 1983, just north of the BW property.). Now GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the company began liquidating buildings and consumer products over the last two years. When they announced their intent to sell the Elion-Hitchings Building in April, 2011, I suggested that someone purchase it to fashion into hipster condominiums. My hopes were dashed when United Therapeutics purchased it and two other buildings for $17.5 million in late June of this year. United Therapeutics has a 55-acre lot adjacent to the GSK property where they've constructed a new headquarters building of their own. What follows is a Storify compilation of my tweets from Saturday with photos that I sent out. I'll post other photos later.
  2. davidkroll
    Triangle folks: You can still come to tour the Elion-Hitchings Bldg in RTP today 9:00 - 12:40 for $15 at door http://bit.ly/T5YrxE
    Sat, Oct 20 2012 05:15:07
  3. davidkroll
    Just arrived at former GSK-held Elion-Hitchings Bldg, now owned by United Therapeutics. http://pic.twitter.com/qOiH8kf7
    Sat, Oct 20 2012 06:34:40
  4. sciencegeist
    @davidkroll It looks like the building is held up by giant lab jacks
    Sat, Oct 20 2012 07:11:50
  5. davidkroll
    You can't erase the GSK. Logo outline on frosted glass. #elionhitchings http://pic.twitter.com/RiJPqN3a
    Sat, Oct 20 2012 06:46:47
  6. davidkroll
    I wonder if GSK was still paying these 1996-97 wages? #elionhitchings http://pic.twitter.com/okKeIVAU
    Sat, Oct 20 2012 06:52:55
  7. davidkroll
    This was the view for the executive secretarial pool. RTP requires that 40% of lots remain wooded #elionhitchings http://pic.twitter.com/YGGT75i4
    Sat, Oct 20 2012 07:12:27
  8. sbeckwral
    @davidkroll Very cool! Didn't know that stat!
    Sat, Oct 20 2012 07:36:12
  9. Since Stephanie is a news producer for WRAL-TV in Raleigh, I thought I should do some fact-checking and find the source for this factoid once I got home. Turns out that I was wrong -- I underestimated the wooded requirement.According to RTP's Land Management plan, the built-up area of each lot is limited to 30%, leaving much more of the pine forest than I had originally cited.
  10. davidkroll
    The #elionhitchings patio where Christopher Walken and Natalie Wood appeared in "Brainstorm"; Burroughs-Wellcome then http://pic.twitter.com/AO67RfIK
    Sat, Oct 20 2012 07:20:33
  11. ProteinWrangler
    @davidkroll really cool building. just read it was in the movie "Brainstorm." thought it looked familiar. thanks for sharing!
    Sat, Oct 20 2012 08:06:37
  12. I then realized that bombarding my Twitter followers with my tour photos required an explanation:
  13. davidkroll
    If my timeline is wondering what I'm writing about: I'm touring the 1966 Paul Rudolph creation that was US HQ for Burroughs-Wellcome...
    Sat, Oct 20 2012 07:38:12
  14. davidkroll
    The bldg was acquired by Glaxo and its subsequent iterations. Sold to United Therapeutics recently. First time open to public in decades.
    Sat, Oct 20 2012 07:39:31
  15. davidkroll
    More from me: http://cenblog.org/terra-sigillata/2012/10/18/burroughs-wellcome-elion-hitchings-building-open-for-public-tours-october-20th-only/ More from Triangle Modernist Houses http://www.trianglemodernisthouses.com/bwtour.htm #elionhitchings
    Sat, Oct 20 2012 07:41:47
  16. davidkroll
    One drawback to working in such an angular building: #elionhitchings http://pic.twitter.com/IvpaFt9X
    Sat, Oct 20 2012 07:45:32
  17. davidkroll
    2nd floor offices have nicer views than 5th (exec) floor. Hex design bring you closer to trees #elionhitchings http://pic.twitter.com/2YzFSHVQ
    Sat, Oct 20 2012 07:49:56
  18. davidkroll
    Can any GSKers tell us why all #elionhitchings bldg rooms have the MAI prefix? http://pic.twitter.com/zOnsbEbF
    Sat, Oct 20 2012 07:53:24
  19. davidkroll
    More GSK worker artifacts #elionhitchings http://pic.twitter.com/nivXNxku
    Sat, Oct 20 2012 07:54:51
  20. collabchem
    Thank you @davidkroll great building, like a trippy Escher drawing but whiteboards were insightful big pharma relics http://pic.twitter.com/1S3T9nZ1
    Sat, Oct 20 2012 10:05:57
  21. MaverickNY
    @davidkroll like being stuck in a time warp, for posterity
    Sat, Oct 20 2012 07:55:43
  22. davidkroll
    Completion of #elionhitchings tour! http://pic.twitter.com/yM3oZcBy
    Sat, Oct 20 2012 08:04:37
  23. andybechtel
    @davidkroll Great pics, thanks.
    Sat, Oct 20 2012 07:42:01
  24. collabchem
    Thank you @davidkroll great building, like a trippy Escher drawing but whiteboards were insightful big pharma relics http://pic.twitter.com/1S3T9nZ1
    Sat, Oct 20 2012 10:05:57
  25. The story here is that I had originally purchased three tickets for later in the day before I realized that the time conflicted with my daughter's soccer match. So on Friday night, I ran a little Twitter contest to give away these tickets.ADME-Tox guru and Collaborative Chemistry writer Sean Ekins was fortunately able to use one of my tickets -- and I'm glad he did because his post on the visit is truly elegant and reflective on the metaphors this building holds for the past and present state of drug discovery. He also has much cleaner photos than I. Here's a sample of his writing:
    A building so empty was a powerful metaphor for the pharma that was once a giant mass of people and knowledge. While we blame the current productivity/ innovation/ outsourcing trend and overall demise on many things, could the very buildings that house them be partly responsible. Our ability to layer knowledge on seperate floors, this upstairs/ downstairs dynamic with the executives removed from the brains below. And then the partitioning by cave like cubicles leaving only isolated whiteboards for sharing our ideas. It certainly made me wonder, and remind me of my interactions inside many a big pharma. I had seen this pattern before time and time again, perhaps the writing is still on the walls. I wonder if other moth-balled pharma sites like Sandwich still have such remnants? If we are to look at science from the future a snapshot of this building just would not be complete without a whiteboard..and a koala bear playing taps in code.
  1. collabchem
    Pharma architecture and informatics, whiteboards as the silo of ideas, symbol of demise: http://www.collabchem.com/2012/10/21/pharma-architecture-and-informatics-whiteboards-as-the-silo-of-ideas-symbol-of-demise/ ThankU @davidkroll for Ticket
    Sun, Oct 21 2012 21:17:04
  2. And from the organizer:
  3. georgesmartTMH
    Thanks to the over 300 people who came and visited the Burroughs Wellcome building this morning.....and thanks to... http://fb.me/1FpDobZb5
    Sat, Oct 20 2012 11:29:52
  4. Many thanks to George Smart and Triangle Modernist Houses for making this tour possible. Volunteers told me that George had been negotiating this tour for several years. The vacancy made by the GSK sale to United Therapeutics provided an excellent time for the tour to take place.Thank you to all involved in making this possible.

Author: David Kroll

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  1. OMG – that whiteboard was ‘mine’, from my office on the 3rd floor of the B wing of EH. “Floyd” is a character creation of one of my team members, a frequent doodle, greeting card character, etc. Floyd Rocks! as does his artist mom. In that pic, Floyd is reading a paper Lab Notebook with a giggle about the misspelling of “Bilology” by a very smart scientist :-). It’s been almost two years, i sure do miss the old buidling… it was GREAT!!

  2. I was just reminded that the doodles were added to Floyd’s Board by my then 19 yo daughter while she was supposedly helping me pack up 😉