SAAB-SCANIA of America – 60 Marsh Hill Rd, Orange, CT

Posted on 24. Oct, 2007 by in 2000-2009, Orange, Connecticut

Photo Credits: Esto

The architectural firm, Douglas, Orr, deCossy and Winder designed the first building for SAAB-SCANIA of America, Inc. located at 60 Marsh Hill Road in Orange, Connecticut back in 1971. I have been in touch recently with both the original Architect of the project William deCossy, AIA as well as the Project Architect Russell Raymond Santora, AIA and both have been so kind as to provide “everything” they had in their possession with regards to this facility.

It is important to note that this facility is where both legendary Presidents of Saab USA, Ralph Millet as well as Robert J. Sinclair had worked.

It is also good to know that this is the first time that true color photographs of 60 Marsh Hill Road have surfaced as indicated above, so this is a huge milestone for the Saab History project.

The material below has been carefully retyped in their own words and the scanned sketches as well as photographs are all in black in white as that was what both William deCossy as well as Russell Santora had. If you find yourself visiting this and know of or know someone who has color photographs that I could replace and/or accompany the black and white photographs with, please contact me at your earliest convenience.

Below you will find Project Architect, Russell Raymond Santora’s historical narrative of this project that he wrote for Saab History in September of 2007 (last month). You will also find the original project scope and material that showcases 60 Marsh Hill Road, completed.

This facility served Saab Cars USA from 1972 until 1992, when the staff relocated to Norcross, Georgia.

An enormous thanks goes to both William deCossy as well as Russell Raymond Santora for providing Saab History to now share this information with the Saab Community.

SAAB Headquarters Building Orange, CT – September, 2007

A warehouse building design conception as a billboard.

Recollections 71

1. SAAB representatives from Sweden came to New Haven with the object:

    a. Relocating their regional HQ and warehouse, auto parts facility presently housed in an older factory building on the site of the New Haven Terminal, the city port facility on the east side of the New Haven Harbor.

    b. Selecting a location with high visibility

    c. Providing a warehouse facility operating with greater efficiency

    d. Providing a security system to reduce pilferage

    e. Enhanced employee amenities and administrative area

    f. showroom for display of autos

    g. Construction “Fast track – turn key” completion design to occupancy six months – it actually took seven.

2. Apparently it was decided (prior to engaging an architect) to utilize a metal building system in order to meet objective 1.g. Maconi Construction was the local contractor for Butler Building Systems at the time preeminent manufacturer of this type.

3. Since our firm, Douglas Orr, deCossy and Winder had worked with Maconi Construction on other projects, we were suggested by Richard Marconi (the President) as the architects for the project and selected. William deCossy was the principal involved and I (Russel Raymond Santora), was the project architect.

4. Apparently without architect participation a site (60 Marsh Hill Road) was selected in Orange, CT on the South East side of I-95 and where I met the SAAB reps from Sweden (no USA reps present), Olaf Nystrom, the apparent chief among the five, along with Dick Maconi, BIll deCossy. The site met the 1.b. requirement fully except for a hill along the East edge restricting the view by Southbound (SW actually) traffic and pointed out in any case the view of any structure would be momentary at best-nine seconds at most. The architects went to work.


View Larger Map

5. Bill deCossy came up a unique simple design mass that would stand out and provide an image to be retained in even the most unsophisticated visual memory bank. From his early sketch a workable architectural and structural design was developed using system components. The front section (two levels) was untypical vis-a-vis typical structural components requiring a structural design based on preliminary architecturals in order to continue fast track, ie. steel shop drawings, fabrication and erection. The warehouse section remained as system components.

6. Investigating the I-95 views of the site by photographs ,visual impressions from both directions and establishing sightlines from initial awareness based on topography and observation, an ideal building location and first floor elevation could be determined. The site sloped downwards from the I-95 shoulder considerably then rose to a height a few feet above the level of I-95 – some areas more so. Balancing cut and fill the building elevation (first floor) could be located at or slightly above the highway elevation providing visual awareness of the building from the east approach, considering the set back required from I-95.

7. The architects found during a site visit during the excavation process that the Contractor and Owner (Maconi / Olaf) had established a first floor elevation below the I-95 highway elevation and were removing the excess material from the site. A process that eventually exposed a small mount of rock that required two weeks of blasting and removal.

8. The lower elevation required a re-evaluation of the visibility components. The architects drew up visuals from significant initial highway viewpoints and contended that only a large as possible graphic of SAAB would suffice located on the building face (east) tower. “SCANIA” was added later.

9. A raised floor was incorporated to provide cabling to (state of the technology circa 70’s) computers along with HVAC climate control accomodations to meet the narrow environmental parameters for existing computers.

10.
Afterwards, appraisals during construction and subsequently.

  a. Since the structural design proceeded in parallel with the architectural on fast-track conflicts were bound to arise, two are as follows.

    1. A beam crossed a stair run reducing the headroom clearance required by code (6′-8″) far below the requirement. The beam had to be cut and a section removed with a column support for the remaining end. Explanations by the architects regardless of earlier warnings that construction was proceeding before design were insufficient to satisfy the owner rep.
    2. The continous cantilevered stair from the first floor reception/display area to the second floor administration area was found to be too bouncy with only one person using it requiring post support and applied equally to the second floor administrative area.

  b. Other items

    1. That vibrations from the I-95 highway could be perceived on the administrative second floor were unknown until construction was completed (Who knew?)

    2. Despite the architect’s assertion that any display within the building regardless of any factor used to provide visual enhancement could not be perceived from I-95, the owner insisted to include a turntable and lighting to provide viewing. It was born out it was impossible to see any display from I-95 during daylight and miniscule at night regardless of the amount of the display lighting intensity which was never sufficient. The display area however provided an intro for visitors to SAAB products.

    3. Foreground parking as developed later reduced the visual impact of the lone isolated building as a corporate icon. The staff parking on the east ridge was noted as inconvenient especially in winter/snows or usual rain by the architects but ignored by the owners.

11.
The building and site subsequent to the initial design and concept has undergone revisions without any consultation with the original designers; the usual fate of second or third tier architecture.



The Project Scope

sketch.jpg

Project:

sketch_and_plans.jpg

Headquarters and Warehouse, SAAB-SCANIA of America, Inc.
CONNECTICUT HONOR AWARD for DESIGN 1972

Location:
Orange, Connecticut

Area:

Total 96,000 sq ft office 42,000 warehouse 54,000

Construction Cost:
$1,850,000 1971 $19.25 sq ft

Architectural Services Provided:

Site selection; Site layout; Renderings (studies on various sites); program development; Preliminary drawings; Drawings built under negotiated contract owner-architect-contractor team; Working Drawings; Contract Administration; Graphic Design; Lighting; Consultants & Interior Design; Consultants: Pfisterer Tor & Assoc., Structural Engineers.

Features:

  * Distinctive design for corporate identity to be attractive from highway
  * Design and construction complete in seven months architect-contractor-owner team.
  * 40% Pre-engineered building (basic frame and exterior). Wall design utilizes manufactured components to achieve an unmanufactured appearance.
  * Warehouse design (incorporates high bay palette storage racks with special fork lift placement and retrieval system in 50x70x24 high bays; internal security control, seven truck doors with levelers and boots; trash compactor.


Completed Project

SAAB-SCANIA

Warehouse and Headquarters Facility for SAAB-SCANIA of America

This is the regional headquarters of SAAB, located in Orange, Connecticut, situated alongside of I-91. The building was designed to be quickly comprehended from a busy high speed highway constructed of a manufacturers component parts on a fast track construction schedule – six months from start of design to owner occupancy. The building contains headquarters office facilities, computer room, cafeteria, auto and product display area, service school, school service shop and a 8000 SF high bay warehouse with rack storage with security provision. The deisgner worked out graphics, security, shipping-receiving, waste disposal with the owners. Snapshot photos follow with brief descriptions.

building_straight_on.jpg

Caption: Building as viewed from highway, entrance and visitor-executive parking in foreground.

front_building.jpg

Caption: Close-up of Entry

interior_display.jpg

Auto and product display area inside entry, visitor reception and waiting. Landscape office area is on second level served by stair and elevator. Auto displays turntable presently decorated for Christmas.

training.jpg

Caption: Auto maintenance area. Part of service school and testing facility

sign.jpg

Caption: Interior lit sign at entry road, vandal resistant, design to float in air at night.

shipping_receiving.jpg

Shipping and receiving area and graphics.

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5 Responses to “SAAB-SCANIA of America – 60 Marsh Hill Rd, Orange, CT”

  1. KingCast

    26. Sep, 2011

    I have owned 7 OG 900 SAABs and know CT fairly well but never thought to look for the facility, I assume it was razed at some point, when and what is it now?

    Reply to this comment
  2. cheereeo

    24. Jan, 2012

    That original building still stands and is now Southern CT Gas Company. There is no mention of One Saab Drive, Orange, CT when I worked there (that was the address on our stationery). Along with 35 Executive Boulevard, which was the street and building next door, which is now Tangoe, Inc. Most of the employees worked in the Tangoe building, which consisted of three office floors. The two buildings had connecting driveways, which have since been fenced off from one another. I am surprised there was no mention of the “famous” car mound that used to be located between I-95 (not I-91) and the original building. There were usually two cars parked on the mound–I remember a 900 and a 9000– and lit to be visible by those driving along I-95. Very often, the Facilities Department would find bullet holes in the cars! Behind the car mound was a very famous set of flagpoles–USA, SWEDEN and SAAB. It was a terrific place to work. We were so sad when the company relocated to Norcross, Georgia.

    Reply to this comment
  3. steve h kehoe

    07. Feb, 2012

    I worked for Saab as Texas District Mgr (also Okla. and Louisiana) from 1979 thru 1991 when the @#@%^##’s at GM bought half the car division, starting the “road to rack and ruin” for a beautiful car line and some beautiful people (and of course, some assholes like Gary Rollinson).
    Thoroughly enjoyed the Swedish hospitality. Those were the golden years.
    Thanks, General Motors, for fxxxing up a beautiful product and work environment.
    Steve H Kehoe
    MU66@etex. net

    Reply to this comment
  4. John Ieronimo

    10. Jun, 2016

    I worked there from 1975-1988 and thoroughly enjoyed the work environment – chiefly because of the team atmosphere created under the leadership of Bob Sinclair. Sinclair was SAAB – dynamic, fun, and available to all of his employees.

    I left there to spend 20 years at Mercedes Benz USA in NJ. Bigger company but not better.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Brenda Piper Boyd

    23. Oct, 2018

    One of the old Saab Cars USA corporate headquarters sites in Orange, Connecticut is being demolished. Very sad to see as I drive by it today. Those were good times working in that building. 35 Executive Boulevard

    Reply to this comment

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