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Iconic Burroughs Wellcome Headquarters Open For Rare Public Tour


PRESS RELEASE by Triangle Modernist Houses

October 8, 2012 (Research Triangle Park, NC) -- The internationally renowned Burroughs Wellcome Headquarters building in Research Triangle Park, designed by the late Paul Rudolph, FAIA, has not been open for public tour 30 years. That will change on Saturday, October 20th, when Triangle Modernist Houses (TMH) sponsors a rare public tour of the building from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Known as the Elion-Hitchings building since 1988, honoring Nobel prize-winning chemists Gertrude Elion and George Hitchings, the futuristic, tiered structure is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the Triangle and one of architect Rudolph’s most compelling achievements.  The building has been closed to the public for decades as pharmaceutical companies Glaxo, Glaxo Wellcome, and Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK) were actively using it as office and laboratory space.

Rudolph, dean of the Yale School of Architecture for six years, began designing the building in 1969. Construction was completed in 1971, at which time Burroughs Wellcome relocated its U.S. headquarters from Tuckahoe, New York, to North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park.  Rudolph described the building, known for its extensive use of concrete and highly complex floor plans, as a “man-made extension of the ridge upon which it is built,” hence the structure’s angular shape. 

In 1981, part of the sci-fi thriller "Brainstorm" was filmed there, starring Natalie Wood and Christopher Walken. The tour will access five floors, including the executive area where the movie was filmed, as well as the lobby, library, office areas, auditorium, cafeteria, and many offices.

TMH founder and director George Smart arranged the tour through United Therapeutics, the building’s new owner since June 2012.  “Rudolph started his career designing Modernist houses in Florida,” said Smart.  “As the building is unoccupied prior to renovation, this is the perfect moment. This is the public’s only chance to see his work.  The building is his only project in North Carolina.“

According to Smart, United Therapeutics has committed to preserving the Modernist Elion-Hitchings building and will begin renovation later this fall as part of the growing company's RTP expansion.  “We extend our heartfelt thanks to UT for arranging this exceptionally rare opportunity for the public to experience the Elion-Hitchings building,” he said. “UT has been great to work with.”

Advance, timed admission tickets are $9.95 per person for the public, $7.95 per person for TMH Mod Squad members, or $15 per person at the door if the tour does not sell out. Children who are carried or are in strollers are free.

Photography is allowed inside and outside, but food and beverages are not.  Tour-goers must sign a liability release before entering.  All proceeds benefit TMH's ongoing documentation, preservation, and promotion projects.

For more details on the tour and to purchase advance tickets, go to For more information on Triangle Modernist Houses, visit

About Triangle Modernist Houses:

Triangle Modernist Houses (TMH) is an award-winning 501C3 nonprofit established in 2007 dedicated to documenting, preserving, and promoting modernist architecture in the Triangle region. The award-winning website, now the largest educational and historical archive for Modernist residential design in America, continues to catalog and advocate for North Carolina modernism. TMH also hosts popular Modernist house tours several times a year, giving the public access to the Triangle's most exciting residential architecture, past and present. These tours raise awareness and help preserve these "livable works of art" for future generations. Visit the website at TMH also has an active community on Facebook.

Media Contact

Kim Weiss
Blueplate PR