If you are travelling through Ohio, be on the lookout for an enormous picnic basket which might appear like a misplaced piece from a giant’s picnic. This mysterious seven-storey structure in Newark, Ohio, was once the headquarters of Longaberger Company, known for their trademarked handcrafted maple wood baskets. The Longaberger Basket Building is one among the most famous examples of Novelty architecture.
“If they can put a man on the moon, they can certainly build a structure that’s shaped like a basket,” said Dave Longaberger, the founder of Longaberger Company. With that quote, the journey of the basket building, a landmark of Ohio, began in 1995 with the ground-breaking and was completed by 1997.
The Longaberger Basket Building, locally known as the ‘Big Basket’, was designed to mimic the company’s most popular product, the Medium Market Basket, but only 160 times greater. Initially, the architects, NBBJ and Korda Nemeth engineering, proposed designs which did not convince Mr. Longaberger, who wanted the people to know that it is a Longaberger building, finally pointed to one of the baskets and told to “build exactly like that.” What says Longaberger more than their signature baskets?
Located on 25 acres of land, this 1,80,000 sq. ft. structure can hold up to 500 people. The basket façade consists of 6’ by 30’ stucco panels giving the illusion of horizontal and vertical weave patterns of an original basket. Attached to the building with copper replicas and wooden rivets are the two large handles weighing 75 tons each. These handles were a big engineering challenge during its erecting phase. Both these elements are heated to thwart them from freezing during winter.
The building, an exact model of the basket, includes an outwardly tapering exterior. Hence, the seventh floor has a total increment of 5,000 sq. ft. more than the first floor. The Longaberger Basket Building has a steel structure enhanced by details such as stucco tacks, a 700-pound gold label plate on north and south facades.
Due to the limited fenestration spaces on the facades, an alternative solution of an atrium was incorporated into the interior to provide natural light. This dramatic atrium is covered with a skylight. The interior colour palette is based on the company’s basket and pottery line.
This $30 million office building surely was way ahead of its time and did turn a few heads around.
The supersized basket, the Longaberger Basket Building is located on the east side of Newark, between Dresden and Columbus, Ohio – the birthplace of the establishment and also the home to their basket making amenities. The Company was founded in the late 1970s as a manufacturer of handmade baskets.
Soon, the company started growing rapidly and decided that it deserved an iconic home base which can be made into a corporate icon. As expected, the Big Basket attracted the media from all around and raised a few eyebrows. It was also conspicuously featured in various architectural and engineering publications.
The company faced numerous challenges due to its unstable finances after its founder, Dave Longaberger’s death in 1999 and eventually declared bankruptcy in 2018. However, due to the local demand of preserving this icon in Newark as it had already become a tourist and cultural destination made the authorities look into the future possibilities of turning this landmark into a hotel. In 2018, it was reported that a developer from Newark, Steve Coon had bought the Big Basket.
“The Big Basket is like the St. Louis Arch. It’s a really important part of south-eastern Ohio history.” – Jim Klein, the former President of Longaberger Company and firmly believes that one day the building will be among the National Register of Historic Places.