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Markel Building 1--Inspired by a Baked Potato | by David Hoffman '41
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Markel Building 1--Inspired by a Baked Potato

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The Markel Building is just outside the city limits of Richmond, Virginia in Henrico County. A 2005 plaque erected by the county reads:

 

"The Markel Corporation commissioned architect Haig Jamgochian, a Richmond native, to design their headquarters in 1962. The aluminum clad conical structure was inspired by a baked potato wrapped in foil served to Jamgochian while attending an American Institute of Architect's dinner. Each floor consists of a single piece of 555-foot aluminum. They are the longest unbroken pieces of aluminum ever used as siding material. Jamgochian personally sledge-hammered crinkles into the 3rd floor siding before contractors finished the job on the other two floors in 1965. The building is a unique architectural example of its era."

 

The aluminum came from another Richmond-based company, Reynolds Metals, best known to the ordinary consumer for Reynolds aluminum foil. The aluminum exterior has seen a lot of wear over the years and has been patched with metal and duct tape. This futuristic and visionary structure has been called the “Jiffy-Pop Building”. Jamgochian, despite having only two designed structures built, has achieved international renown with many of his unique architectural ideas. Richmond was not interested; but buildings based on his ideas have been erected in Brazil, South Africa, Japan and Chicago! The second built structure was the Moon House, built for Richmond used-car salesman called Mad Man Dapper Dan. It was demolished in 2005.

 

For some reading on a fascinating man:

 

anaba.blogspot.com/2006/10/haigh-jamgochian-and-his-marke...

www.styleweekly.com/styleweekly/the-visionary/Content?oid...

retrorichmond.com/?p=7

 

For some reading on the Markel Corporation, an insurance firm historically significant in the transportation industry:

 

www.markelcorp.com/AboutMarkel/Pages/MarkelHistory.aspx

 

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Taken on January 20, 2011