Twin Cities PBS Logo

Was Minnesota the inspiration behind IBM’s nickname “Big Blue”?

By Susan Thao

If you've ever driven south of the Twin Cities on State Highway 52, you may have noticed the vibrant, blue-tinted buildings with almost skyscraper-like glass panels. As you're looking at them, you may have even wondered why such modern buildings would even be located in the outskirts of metro-Minnesota. Let alone, in the middle of farm fields.

Designed by famed architect Eero Saarinen in 1956, IBM Rochester's progressive architecture symbolized growth and cutting-edge technology. The buildings are a representation of the East Coast-native company's vision, which, at that time, revolved around expansion to the rest of United States and eventually the world.

As for the blue color? Minnesota gets credit for that. Saarinen was inspired by Minnesota's blue skies and lakes. Despite the company's roots on the East Coast, the startling hue of the Minnesota building does make one wonder: Did IBM earn the nickname "Big Blue" because of Saarinen's architectural design rather than the blue tint of its computers?

Since IBM Rochester's opening in 1958, the outpost has developed some of the leading, most innovative computers in the world, including the top two fastest supercomputers.

On a recent tour of this Eero Saarinen building, Tory Johnson, IBM's Senior State Executive in Minnesota, explained why one of world's largest tech companies chose to expand its footprint in Rochester, Minn.


To learn more about other tech giants in Minnesota that changed the landscape of the computing industry as we know it today, watch Solid State: Minnesota's High-Tech History.

Susan Thao Read More
TPT Logo
©2024 Twin Cities Public Television