What molecule is this building?
August 23, 2008 2:26 AM   Subscribe

Does this building's layout represent a particular molecule?

I believe it's the (old?) headquarters of BOC Gases near Chobham, Surrey.
posted by Huw to Science & Nature (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Not a chemist, but it evokes an organometallic where the metal cation has coordination number four (e.g., tetraethyl lead). Alternatively, a hydrocarbon with a neopentane-like central structure.
posted by Mapes at 4:01 AM on August 23, 2008

Ignoring the extension on the left for a second, the central part of the structure looks to me like a benzene ring with three nitro or carboxy groups and one methyl or hydroxy group. Chemistry nomenclature can get a bit hairy since there are different ways of naming things and I've now added different combinations, but some possibilities (again, ignoring the extension) are 2,3,6-trinitrophenol, 2,3,6-trinitrotoluene, 3-hydroxy-trimellitic acid, 3-methyl-trimellitic acid.

The smaller extension on the left is throwing me off, though. It's six-sided, making me think a benzene ring, although it's smaller than the central ring so maybe it's a single atom? The connection to the main structure seems to be an ester or possibly a thioester since it looks a bit different than the other "oxygens". But if it's either type of ester, I think that rules out the nitro groups so that they have to be carboxyls. I guess you'd be left with something like 3-methyl-trimellitic acid 6-phenylester.

Regardless, I don't think anything I can come up with is commercially relevant so this feels kind of futile. We're probably overthinking a plate of beans here.
posted by Durin's Bane at 6:34 AM on August 23, 2008

They appear to be have been quite proud of it, but most of the stories I've found have been about the art inside or on the grounds, not the building itself.

Looks pretty neat from the outside though.

You could ring the local council, maybe someone there would remember.
posted by madajb at 7:18 AM on August 23, 2008

I emailed their customer service account. We'll see if anyone remembers.
posted by jedicus at 9:58 AM on August 23, 2008

It could be a snowflake. My interaction with Boc has involved cryogens, especially liquid nitrogen and liquid helium. When you transfer the liquid from the big tank to anything else, the valve and the fill hose immediately get all frosty.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 1:09 PM on August 23, 2008

Best answer: Here's what I got from BOC:
According to the information I have, the building in Windlesham was
designed to resemble an oxygen molecule.


Eve Cardiff -Customer Enquiries Advisor 24 Hour Team
Tel: 0800 111 333 Fax: 08450870072
Address: BOC Ltd | Priestley Road | Worsley | Manchester | M28
That "Priestley Road" is a clue. Evidently they are headquartered in the Priestley Centre. Joseph Priestley was a discoverer of oxygen, and BOC originally stood for Brin's Oxygen Company. That said, I don't seen how it looks anything like either O2 or ozone, but maybe someone with more chemistry knowledge could elucidate.
posted by jedicus at 2:26 PM on August 24, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, jedicus. Oxgen was my first guess too but I couldn't see the match either!
posted by Huw at 7:35 AM on August 25, 2008

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