Remembrances of Buildings Past… and soon to be Past

Every morning as I’ve walked into work I’ve noticed changes in the lobby. First the chairs were gone. Then the corporate logo. Now they are packing the trophy case. The mural in front of the elevators was dark. Soon, there won’t be much left — all the people will be gone, and all the stuff will be gone, and soon the building itself will be gone. The building that was my home for nearly 20 years.

Perhaps I should explain. The ranch where I work has a number of buildings. The first of these, designated A1, was built in the early 1960s. It is a six-story, all concrete building that served as the corporate headquarters building until early this year, when a new building, A9, was built. A9 was built because A1 was not earthquake safe, and it was more cost effective to build a new building than rehab the old one. So when A9 opened, all of the administrative folks moved over to A9 and cubicle city, except for a select few who got offices. However, the technical folks stayed in A1 while new space was refurbished in other buildings (notably A2 and A3). Slowly, folks filtered out of A1. We moved to A3 in September, and I think the last folks in A1 (save, perhaps, for some folks in the basement) are the folks on the west side of the 2nd floor, who have plastered the floor with “We’re still here” signs, and perhaps some folks in the basement. As the building has closed down, restrooms on unoccupied floors have been padlocked, offices have been sealed, bulletin boards have been taken down (I know this because our lab was still on the fifth floor until this week, which had this treatment). Now they are closing down the lobby of the building. This means that soon the building itself will be gone, a dead building standing, awaiting its eventual destruction. Part of the history of Space and the South Bay will be history.

This has gotten me thinking back to my previous employer, and another headquarters building that was destroyed. This headquarters building was at 2500 Colorado in Santa Monica, next to a building at 2400 Colorado, and housed System Development Corporation. The 2500 building was built in the late 1950s when SDC was spun off of RAND. Later additions included the Q7 and Q7A buildings that housed some of the first computers, the 2400 building, the “Building 5” on Olympic. By 1985, when I joined SDC, 2500 was in its last days. SDC had mostly moved to Camarillo, CA, and those folks left in Santa Monica were moving across the street to Colorado Place. Still, I had a number of months in 2500 and Q7/Q7A (2400 had been shut down by then, except for the fitness center). Again, there were all the signs of the former headquarters building: the paneled conference room, the fancy front entry, the cafeteria, the auditorium. But Santa Monica needed its water park, and so 2500 came down, together with Q7A. After a couple of years in Colorado Place, however, we moved back into 2400. I remember that building was old, and there were two whole floors that were empty and simply held old furniture. Later, that building too was shut down and added to the water park, and SDC in Santa Monica (hell, SDC in California) was no more. Of course, by that time it was no longer SDC, but the System Development Group of UNiSYS. I still run into SDC people in my business, and I think folks remember the old company quite fondly. I pay tribute to her in a userpic, which if you look closely has the flying diaper logo.

When I think of SDC, I don’t think of Colorado Place. I still think of the old buildings: of 2500, Q7, 2400. I’m sure I’ll have similar remembrances of the quirks of A1, once that building is long gone.