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Skyscraper Pictures: The Seagram Building in New York City

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Constructed with travertine, marble, and 1,500 tons of bronze, the Seagram Building was the most expensive skyscraper of its time.
The Seagram Building in New York City

The Seagram Building in New York City

Photo © Jackie Craven

About the Seagram Building:

Location: 375 Park Avenue (between 52nd and 53rd Streets), New York City
Architects: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe with Philip Johnson
Built: 1954-1958
Height: 160 meters / 525 feet
Stories: 38
Style: Interntional Style

Phyllis Lambert, daughter of Seagram founder Samuel Bronfman, was tasked with finding an architect to build what has become an iconic modern skyscraper. With help from Philip Johnson, Lambert settled on a well-known German architect, who, like Johnson, was building in glass. Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House along with Philip Johnson's Glass House created the impetus for the two to create a skyscraper of bronze and glass.

Mies believed that a skyscraper's structure, its "skin and bones," should be visible, so the architects used decorative bronze beams to accentuate the structure and to emphasize its height. At the base is a two-story high glass-enclosed lobby. The entire building is set back 100 feet from the street, creating the "new" concept of the city plaza. The open urban space allows office workers an outdoor focus and also permits the architect to design a new style of skyscraper—a building without setbacks, which allows sunlight to reach the streets. This aspect of the design is in part why the Seagram Building has been called one of Ten Buildings That Changed America.

The book Building Seagram (Yale University Press, 2013) is Phyllis Lambert's personal and professional recollections of the birth of a building that influenced both architecture and urban design.

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