GE Powerplant Designed After Their CF-6 Jet Engine
Frank Lloyd Wright, the Architectural Godfather of the Powerplant’s Form
GE’s current tagline, “Imagination at Work” and/or its predecessor, “We Bring Good Things to Life,” might be considered as the inspiration for the design of its recently completed $60-$70 million utility plant at its Evendale headquarters. The building is intended to look like one of its jet engines, a/k/a powerplants. The structure will be the source for heating and cooling for the entire 7 million-square-foot GE site and will also produce pressurized air for shop services, a reverse osmosis system to purify water and new gas service.
Dave Swigart, the original project manager, said that he asked the architect to celebrate GE’s heritage; thus, the building’s circular configuration, the large windows, the top cone recreated a jet engine facing the sky in form only. The interior shape and the exterior bear no correlation.
The author of the GE press release cited Frank Lloyd Wright as the architectural godfather of the powerplant’s form. The reference is to the eccentric American genius’ aphorism “form follows function,” a summary of his organic concept. The concept originated with Wright’s first employer, Louis Sullivan. The aegis for this school was that the purpose of a building should be the starting point for its design.
The student enhanced the dictum to “form and function are one.” The quintessential example of the Sullivan-Wright approach was Wright’s Guggenheim Museum. Wright’s heralded masterpiece hardly hints that its interior is an art museum. Its interior spiral configuration is an art work, in and of itself, but the constantly circular walls are considered as not particularly functional for hanging flat art pieces. The current explanation of the Guggenheim’s great architecture is demonstrated by “its capacity to adapt to changing functional uses without losing one bit of its dignity or one bit of its original intention. And I think that’s the great thing about the building at the end of the day.”
The Guggenheim took liberty with the Wright rule; the purpose of the structure was to be art, not to signal that it is a museum. The GE powerplant’s design looks like the company’s CF-6 engine, but it houses administrative offices. Its shape is an artifice. Frank Lloyd Wright appreciated humor and he might have smiled about the powerplant’s powerplant shape.