Even though it stands at 302 feet, the Lever House looks like a dwarf amid the gigantic Manhattan skyscrapers. Despite its size, it is still one of the most iconic New York City structure owing to its all glass cladding that signified a crossroad in the United States? office architecture aesthetic trend.
In 1952, the Lever House was built to serve as the new head office of the Lever Brothers Company which was the largest producer of detergent and soap products. The brothers tapped the expertise of Skidmore, Owings and Merril to construct a contemporary, streamlined American building. The lead architect Gordon Brunshaft modeled his blueprint after the ideas of European contemporary architects like Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe. The Lever House is the first time that this particular design technique was employed in a corporate office structure.
Gordon Brunshaft constructed the Lever House a slab wherein the narrow part of the building is oriented facing the street. The block is set against a horizontal block which sits atop a succession of columns. There is a central courtyard created by a horizontal mezzanine carved out in the middle.
The Lever House is not the most efficient building in New York City when it comes to the utilization of available space. In fact, only 25 percent of the land is used for the building itself. This ?wasteful? layout was not replicated but the generous use of glass for its exterior has definitely set a trend and redefined modernity in the construction of office buildings not just in NYC, but the United States as a whole.
When Lever House was completed in 1952, it emerged as the sole glass-walled structure among the many concrete or masonry buildings in Park Avenue. Today, many office buildings resemble the Lever House which is testament on how many times it has been reproduced. One of the most popular ?versions? of the Lever House is the Seagram Buildings, just a stone?s throw away from the Lever House and designed by Mier van der Rohes.
To acknowledge the historical significance of the building, Lever House was assigned an official landmark status in 1992. SOM refurbished the Lever House in 1998 to be more fitting as the head office of the leading soap and detergent brand.