Seagram Building

Added by Ji Hong Kim, last update: July 23, 2014, 5:56 pm

Location
Park Avenue
New York City, NY 10022
United States
40° 45' 30.8808" N, 73° 58' 21" W
Javascript is required to view this map.
Identity of Building / Site
Primary classification: Commercial (COM)
Secondary classification: Commercial (COM)
Federal, State, or Local Designation(s) and Date(s):

National Historic Place
New York City Landmark(1989)

History of Building/Site
Original Brief:

In anticipation of the celebration of its one hundredth anniversary in 1958, the Joseph E. Seagram and Sons Corporation began planning from 1954. They selected site between 52nd 53rd streets on the east side of Park Avenue. Phyllis Lambert , daughter of Seagram board chairman Samuel Bronfman (1891-1971) request the Museum of Modern Art for advice for monumental headquarter building. Phillip Johnson who was about to leave the position in the museum nominated many famous designers. Lambert and Johnson indicated Mies van der Rohe finally.

Dates: Commission / Completion:The owner’s requirements were that the building “be the crowning glory of everyone’s work, his own, the contractor’s and Mies’s.” The building was designed by Mies and Johnson, with Kahn & Jacobs preparing the working drawings. Photographs of a model of the new design were published by April, 1955. It was rectangular thirty-eight story building with curtain wall. Full modular plan of the building and public space at the ground level and its continuity to the lobby was innovative along with its dark curtain wall façade with bronze I-beam mullion. Existed buildings were demolished between June, 1955, and March, 1956. Construction began soon afterward. It completed in 1958.
Architectural and other Designer(s): architect(s): Mies van der Rohe and Phillip Johnson landscape/garden designer(s): Mies van der Rohe and Phillip Johnson other designer(s): Kahn & Jacobs consulting engineer(s): Jaros, Baum & Bolles (mechanical); Severud-Elstad Krueger (structural); Clifton E. Smith (electrical); Richard Kelly (lighting) building contractor(s): George A. Fuller Company
Others associated with Building/Site:
Significant Alteration(s) with Date(s):
Current Use: Office building
Current Condition:
General Description:
Construction Period:

1958-1958

Original Physical Context:

Park Avenue was used for railroad pass in the 19th century. By 1880s, the trains ran into an open cut below grade to the Grand Central Depot, and there are many one or two story shops and residences. The 1916 zoning resolution designated the portion of Park Avenue north of East 50th Street as residential, but by 1929 major owners on the avenue succeeded in having the area between East 50th and 59th streets rezoned to permit commercial use. With building boom after World War II, there were some office buildings near the site in the 1950s. The site was occupied by the twelve-story Montana Apartment Building on park Avenue, a nine-story apartment building on East 53rd Street, and a five-story tenement and row of four-story buildings, all on East 52nd Street.

Evaluation
Technical Evaluation:

It is the tallest steel frame office building so far. Structural and mechanical innovations abounded in the design. It has very high defined material with highest detail. Cladding material, bronze, is most unique in this building. Façade curtain wall is all products of pioneering efforts of research and fabrication. Also, it makes building looks good as it aged.

Social:

It created public space offered by office tower in the city. This innovative plan effect on Zoning Code. It was in accordance with the viewpoints of several New York architectural firms such as Kahn & Jacobs, which had been urging Parks Commissioner Robert Moses to propose a revision to the zoning regulations, in order to replace full-site ziggurat towers with large buildings surrounded by open spaces. This changed urbanscape and skylines of New York City.

Cultural & Aesthetic:
It is pure expression of modern skyscraper. It was the ultimate manifestation of a machine-made, modular aesthetic. The tradition of glass tower was began from after World War I by Expressionist architects such as Bruno Taut. Mies designed Glass Tower in 1921 and it represent the new era by steel and glass. He strongly inspired steel frames before they were covered with all that masonry. Image of this buiding means external expression of its hidden structure. In addition, this building reflects Mies’s logical modular plan as well as his attitude to the modern material and structure. It also succeeded to create light urban space with high-rise buildings. Mies made balance minimalist structure with pure volume and negative space. Set back and floated above the massless volume of the building plays off against the plaza's negative space, achieving unities.
Historical:

Mies’s visionary modernism was realized in postwar America. Glass tower was a ideal of Mies from 1920s and he think this type of architecture expressed the epoch. America’s industrial technology and good economy after World War II made it possible. At that time American corporations were rushing to line up their head quarter skyscrapers on the Park Avenue.
Also, it was an example of a new type of urban form inspiring the development of privately owned public places. Relationship between a building and the city that was unique in New York at the time of its construction. Also, It was the first bronze-clad skyscraper in the world.

General Assessment:
Documentation
Text references:

Sanborn Manhattan land book of the City of New York, Weehawken, NJ : TRW REDI Property Data, Northeast Region, 1975-76

New York City. Department of Bulidings, Manhattan. Plans, Permits and Dockets. [Block 1307, Lot 1].

Drexler, Arthur. The Mies van der Rohe Archive Vol 16. New York: Garland, 1986

New York Landmarks Preservation Commission. Seagram Building, Including the Plaza, Oct. 3, 1989, Designation List 221, LP-1664
(http://www.neighborhoodpreservationcenter.org/db/bb_files/Seagram-Buildi...)

New York Landmarks Preservation Commission. Seagram Building, First Floor Interior, Oct. 3, 1989, Designation List 221, LP-1665
(http://www.neighborhoodpreservationcenter.org/db/bb_files/1989SeagramBui...)

New York Landmarks Preservation Commission. For Seasons Restaurant, First Floor Interior, Oct. 3, 1989, Designation List 221, LP-1666
(http://www.neighborhoodpreservationcenter.org/db/bb_files/1989FourSeason...)

National Park Service, Seagram Building, Feb. 24, 2006, 06000056 NRIS (National Register Information System)
(http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NRHP/Text/06000056.pdf) (Not digitized yet)
(http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NRHP/Photos/06000056.pdf) (Not digitized yet)

Authoring
Recorder/Date: JiHong Kim, 03/24/2011
DOCOMOMO US
P.O. Box 230977
New York, NY 10023
Terms of use | Contact | Privacy Policy | Credits
© 2014 DOCOMOMO US Google+