Towering at 279 meters or 915 feet, the glass cladded Citigroup Center is an imposing figure in Midtown Manhattan?s skyline and definitely one of the tallest in the area. But what really enables this building remarkable is the rooftop in a triangular form and the four mammoth columns measuring 114 feet high on which the skyscraper appear to precariously stand on.
The massive columns were actually not meant to create intrigue nor for aesthetic purposes. It was actually the product of a deal between the St. Peter?s Lutheran Church and Citibank. St. Peter?s Lutheran Church owned a prime property in Midtown which spanned a roughly 30% of a city block on 54th Street and Lexington Avenue. The church was beleaguered with financial difficulties in the 1960s and resorted to selling this property to generate money. Congruently, Citibank, which was formerly situated just opposite the street of the valuable property, was planning to expand. The church sold the plot to Citibank, but Citibank had to promise that it would construct a new church that would replace their original Gothic Revival place of worship built in 1904. Citibank and St. Lutheran?s Church also concurred that the new church should be a separate one and not part of the skyscraper.
Due to this agreement, the architects faced a challenge of creating enough room at the base of the new office skyscraper to accommodate the new church. Their solution was elevating the tower on four high columns couple with a strong core, much like a building on stilts. The columns were positioned in the middle of each side instead of putting them in the four corners. This technique enabled the creation of sufficient space at the northwest corner of the block for the planned new church.
After the acquisition of the St. Luther?s land, it took more than five years for Citibank to buy the remainder of the block and they had to do it through several companies since the sale value would increase significantly of the sellers know that a huge multinational bank is behind the project. The construction of the skyscraper commenced in 1972 led by the firm Hugh Stubbins & Associates with help from Emery Roth & Sons. The tower was inaugurated in 1977 and was initially named Citibank Center. When the company grew, the building was renamed Citicorp Center and finally, Citigroup Center.
When it opened, the Citigroup Center was the first building in Manhattan that did not follow the popular Internationalist Style. For one, the architects behind the tower gave it a sloping roof deck instead of just flat. Initial ideas to build setback penthouses on the deck did not materialize because of zoning limitations. The roof was then eyed to hold solar panels but this did not push through as well. Today, this distinctly inclined crown holds the tower?s mechanical apparatuses which include a computer regulated mass damper which weighs a whopping 400 tons and slides side to side on a thin coating of oil. The mass damper brings down the skyscraper?s swaying by 40%.
The rise of the Citigroup Center breathed new life to Midtown Manhattan and numerous corporate towers were constructed within the area. The most remarkable of which is the Lipstick Building, a postmodern structure designed by Philips Johnson.
Aside from the magnificent skyscraper, the Citigroup Center also boasts of a huge sunken plaza plus a seven-level atrium found at the base of the building. Out of these seven stories, three are dedicated for shops and restaurants. Both the atrium and the plaza can be accessed via one of New York?s most hectic subway stops.