Park Ave Modernism

Park Avenue is a nexus of Corporate Modernism with its sleek midcentury glass curtain wall towers. Lever House, designed by SOM’s Gordon Bunshaft and Natalie de Blois features the city's first building wrapped in a glass curtain wall. Built in 1952, the building was a divergence from previous office towers that were clad in masonry with setbacks as mandated in the 1916 zoning resolution. To construct a slab tower without setbacks, Lever House only occupied 25% of the site, leaving the remaining space open to the public.

In 1958 Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building followed this form, occupying only 40% of the site with a grand public plaza, reflecting the post-war planning ideology of towers surrounded by open space. Generally regarded as the finest example of the International Style, Seagram would influence a generation of modernist mid-century skyscrapers. Three years later a major zoning resolution would incentivize this style by offering bonuses for public amenities like open space and regulating floor area, not massing.

Josh VogelComment