Martin Tower Case Study
Blending architecture, graphic and interior design
Martin Tower was a 21-story office building which once served as the world headquarter of Bethlehem Steel Corp. Designed by Haines Lundberg Waehler of New York City, the tower was built between 1969 and 1972. It was the tallest structure in the Lehigh Valley and its unique cruciform shape provided corner offices for Steel’s many executives. Vacant since 2007 and imploded in 2019, Alloy5 developed a case study to highlight the integration of architecture, graphic and interior design.
When we discovered a dusty model of Martin Tower in our basement, we couldn’t help but talk about the building’s potential. What was it like to design this? How would we design it today?
Then creativity took over.
A new logo and branding. A 1:1 digital model. An office interior fit-out. A virtual tour.
Inspired by the palette and textures of the 1970s but with a millennial understanding of modern office environments, our approach to Martin Tower combines revitalization with flexibility and collaboration. We’re not certain of the future of Martin Tower, but we recognize the possibility it presents today.
Fifty years ago, architects used balsa wood, plastic, paper and foam board to build miniature models. The replicas allowed officials to study all aspects of design, including how a new structure fits the plant’s footprint. Today, models remain an important architectural tool. However, rather than struggle with glue and polystyrene, architects build models using Building Information Modeling software like Revit. Based in mathematical units, Revit builds precise scale models in a great degree of detail.
The Martin Tower BIM tool was built using archival construction photographs and 3D images from Google Earth. Technology allowed us to examine the tower’s site and structure and place it in a realistic environment. Elevations, details, axonometric views and floor plans were developed from this model.
While Bethlehem Steel’s design maximized corner offices, today’s companies seek an open concept where teamwork flows naturally from comfortable spaces bathed in natural light and bold colors schemes. We took advantage of the tower’s difficult floorplan by structuring the vertical axis to serve traditional work functions while the horizontal axis is aligned for community spaces. Recognizing that brainstorming sessions happen anywhere, we chose lounge-style furniture for common areas and bench seating with computer docks for work areas where employees can touch down to answer emails and sketch first drafts.
Cutting across the Lehigh Valley’s skyline with a boxy simplicity, Martin Tower is an iconic structure intrinsically linked to the area’s industrial past. In creating this logo, we moved away from Bethlehem Steel’s familiar I-beam to build the brand around the tower. A simple black typeface on a white background combine a broad M with a bold cross to mimic the building’s unique shape. The cross serves as a clever replacement for the letter T in Martin and Tower. Both letter shapes are instantly recognizable and stand out on a variety of applications, like letterhead, business cards and promotional buttons.