Stop the demolition of Paul Rudolph's Burroughs Wellcome building in Durham, NC

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Kelvin Dickinson
Kelvin Dickinson signed this petition

In 2012, the United Therapeutics Corporation bought Paul Rudolph’s iconic Elion-Hitchings Building from the Burroughs Wellcome Company, which had hired him to design the building as their corporate headquarters in 1969.

The Elion-Hitchings Building is both an important part of Paul Rudolph’s architectural legacy as well as the only Rudolph-designed structure in North Carolina. Beyond its architectural importance, it is also home to several cultural and historically important events:

  • The facility's laboratories developed the antiretroviral drug AZT - first as a drug to fight cancer, and later as the first drug approved to treat HIV/AIDS in 1987. The building was also the location of subsequent protests by the activist group ACT-UP.
  • The building's interior and exterior were used as sets for the 1983 science fiction film 'Brainstorm' starring Christopher Walken and Natalie Wood (the movie was Natalie Wood's last film)
  • The building is named in honor of Gertrude Elion and George Hitchings - research chemists who shared the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Sir James Black for work done in the building.

In 2016, after demolishing part of the original building United Therapeutics said it planned to refurbish the remaining 160,000 square feet and install an exhibit dedicated to the history of the building and the scientists it is named after.

In addition to being widely celebrated in the architectural press at the time of its construction, the building became the subject of a Historical American Buildings Survey (HABS) Report prepared by the National Park Service and the U.S. Department of the Interior with assistance from the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) and support from United Therapeutics. The report states the building is “vacant, renovation and extension planned.”

In September 2020, the United Therapeutics Corporation obtained a permit to demolish the Burroughs Wellcome Building without consulting local or national preservation groups.

We must not let this happen.

United Therapeutics claims they have studies showing that renovation is not an option, and many organizations would like to see evidence. This overlooks the environmental impact of releasing the building's embodied carbon caused by demolition and new construction, and fails to respect the architectural, historical, cultural, and functional value of this important building.

Indeed, access to the building has not been provided to allow independent studies that could develop other cost estimates for rehabilitation and make a proper comparison against the cost of demolition and new construction.

Please sign this petition and spread the word to show your support for Paul Rudolph’s Burroughs Wellcome Building. It will be presented to Chairwoman Martine Rothblatt and the Board of Trustees of United Therapeutics.

Once it’s demolished, there are no second chances.