Last edited 04 Oct 2016

The Big Basket

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The Big Basket building, in Newark, Ohio, was built as the headquarters of the Longaberger Company, an American manufacturer of handcrafted maple wood baskets and other lifestyle products. It is one of the most famous examples of mimetic or novelty architecture, in which buildings are designed to mimic or represent objects associated with their function.

In the case of the Big Basket building, it was designed to replicate the company's best selling product, the Medium Market Basket, but 160 times larger.

Architects had initially proposed designs that were merely suggestive of a basket, until the company's founder Dave Longaberger pointed to one of the baskets and told them to “make it look exactly like that”.

The 180,000 sq. ft. building cost $30 m to construct and was completed in 1997. It is 7-storeys tall with a central atrium and glass ceiling to provide natural light. It is topped by two steel handles, each weighing 75 tons, which are fitted with heating elements to prevent them from freezing and so protecting the glass atrium below from falling ice. On each side of the top of the building are two gold-leaf-painted 'Longaberger' tags measuring 25 x 7 ft.

In February 2016, after a period of falling profits and staff reductions, Longaberger's parent company JRJR Networks announced that the remaining employees would be moved out from the Newark headquarters.

One of the common problems with mimetic architecture, is its re-sale value, and the future of the Big Basket building remains uncertain. However, there does appear to be popular support in Newark for preserving it as a local landmark, with ideas for future uses including; converting it into a hotel, a multi-family residence, senior housing or an academic building.

Jim Klein, a former Longaberger president who hopes to get the building included on the National Register of Historic Places, said: “The Big Basket is like the St. Louis Arch. It's a really important part of southeastern Ohio history.”

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