THE minimalist landscape around the Cummins factory in Darlington’s Yarm Road is one of 20 post-war green spaces to have been added to the national Register of Parks and Gardens, as the Echo reported on August 21.

The simple grass, water and trees design was drawn up by Dan Kiley, the father of modern US landscapes, in conjunction with the architects who were designing the ground-breaking factory for the US engine-builders.

The Northern Echo:

The Cummins factory which has just been added to the Register of Parks and Gardens. Picture: Historic England

The factory is Darlington’s only 20th Century grade II* listed building, and every part of it, right down the concrete kerbstones around the rectangular reservoir, is regarded as important.

It was built between 1963 and 1965 as Chrysler Cummins were attracted to Darlington to make up for the collapse of the railway industry in which the town had lost 7,000 jobs in a decade. The Americans were so pleased to be coming that in 1963, they offered Darlington’s mayor an exceptionally rare Chrysler Coronado for a knockdown price.

The Northern Echo:

Building the factory in 1963

The Coronado was an eight-seater gas guzzler. Only nine were ever made; only one other came to Europe, where it was owned President Tito of Yugoslavia. And yet, until 1970, the mayor of Darlington was driving around in one with the registration plate 1 VHN.

The factory is so special because it was the first time that Cor-Ten steel – the rusty red material out of which the Angel of the North is made – had been used in a building in Britain.

It was also the first large scale use in Britain of neoprene gaskets in a building – most windows are held in place by putty, but this building for the first time used a synthetic rubber called neoprene to create a gasket-like seal. It was an idea borrowed from the car industry, and led one critic to say: “Perhaps for the first time in England, the ancient dream of a glass wall without draughts has been realised.”

“Cummins Inc. in America had employed the architectural practice of Eliel and Eero Saarinen to design their buildings,” says David Newsome in response to the article 10 days ago. “Eero Saarinen was a Finnish-born architect who had brilliant original ideas, and the design of the Cummins Component Plant building, or the ‘Glass House’ as it was affectionately known as, was his brainchild. It incorporated all of his original ideas such as the neoprene rubber and glass curtain wall glazing system, and the exposed Miesian Cor-Ten steel-framed glazed shed design.

The Northern Echo:

The Queen visited Cummins in Darlington in 1967

“Saarinen’s idea to use Cor-Ten steel was taken from the electricity pylons in Florida which were also made from the steel. Cor-Ten steel is an alloy of manganese, chrome-vanadium and copper with carbon steel and it gives a particularly even finish which weathered and was very durable over time.

“It oxidises within three years to a tactile rust-brown finish that is stable and maintenance free.

“Unfortunately, Eero Saarinen passed away in 1961 and the practice was continued by Kevin Roche, John Dinkerloo and Joseph Lacy, and the design of the Component Plant was credited to them.”

Roche and Dinkerloo designed industrial buildings all around the world, although perhaps Central Park Zoo in New York is their most famous – after, of course, the ground-breaking Cummins factory in Darlington.

The Queen formally opened Cummins on October 20, 1967.