Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Elementary, My Dear Watson...

IBM's Eero Saarinen designed Watson Research Center

I had a truly lovely outing today in Yorktown Heights, NY. It's a beautiful part of New York and a pretty it's in Don and Betty Draper's Ossining neighborhood, so it's all good, right? (I'd have stopped in if it had been cocktail time...)

I literally and legally cannot tell you anything about what I did today other than that I was playing Jeopardy! sparring matches against IBM's Watson project. I had SO much fun and really enjoyed the other contestants, and folks from IBM--they couldn't have been nicer or made us feel more welcome.

One of the nicest surprises, though, was the building itself. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not always too thrilled with modern architecture, but Eero Saarinen has grown on me in the past few years. The fluidity of line and Saarinen's ability to place the building perfectly within it's surroundings is nothing short of genius. Set amidst the rolling hills that surround Yorktown, the building is crescent shaped and has walls of windows that look out over the campus. I can only imagine what it looks like during in autumn, with the leaves at their peak or in the winter during a snow storm. Even today, snowless and dreary as it was for most of the day, the view from the hallway was stunning. I could've sat and read or written all day looking out those windows. Equestrian that I am, it did also occur to me, of course, that it would be an absolutely brilliant place for a good hack!

And what's most wonderful about this structure are the native materials that were used in construction. It's filled with local stone--inside and out--and it couldn't look more like it belongs among the hills and dales of Yorktown. Inside some of the walls use the same local stone and there are the most beautiful, highly polished stone floors that look like an inky river flowing throughout the floors. (They'd make an amazing kitchen floor!) One of the engineers was saying that employees over the years have actually tried rock-climbing on the wall faces--who could blame them?

At any rate, a good time was had by all and if you're at all curious about the Watson project or the Saarinen building here are a couple of useful links for you to explore:

IBM's Watson project

Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, NY.

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