Not all skyscrapers are welcome additions to the New York skyline. Ask any New Yorker which skyscraper they would rather do without, the Metlife building which is still called PanAm Building by many would probably top the list because blocks the view of Park Avenue.
The New Haven Railways and the New York Central Railways, co-owners of the area in the middle of New York Central Building and Grand Central Terminal, collaborated to develop the vicinity in a project called the Grand Central City. Emery Roth & Sons were appointed as architects for the said initiative. The firm?s original blueprint which would not have obscured the vista on Park Avenue was regarded too simple by the project?s constructor Erwin Wolfson. With this criticism, architect Richard Roth sought the advice of the two most acclaimed architects of their time ? Pietro Belluschi and Erwin Wolfson. The two architects opted to overhaul the entire plan and designed an octagonal skyscraper.
The initial north-south orientation was substituted with an east-west alignment configuration which obstructed Park Avenue?s view. Gropius also proposed the idea to demolish the New York Central building to create space for a park next to then called PanAm Building.
MetLife?s building design was modeled after the never constructed projected led by Le Corbusier which was meant to sit beside the slim Pirelli Tower in Milan. The building is composed of a tower with 49 floors sitting on top of 10-story foundation. The fa?ade of the building is cladded with concrete panels to reinforce the look of the building. The product is a 808-foot or 246-meter tall skyscraper which was finished in 1963 and offers extensive space for offices measuring 390,700 square meters in floor area.
Initially, the building was renamed to PanAm Building in 1960 after Pan American Airways which was the building?s primary tenant. Metlife Insurance Company acquired the property in 1981 to the tune of $400 million and the building was again renamed to Metlife Building.
There are a couple of primary reasons behind the distaste of New Yorkers towards the Metlife Building. First is, as mentioned, it obscure the vista on Park Avenue. Second is the sheer massiveness of the building which has often been described as cheap and dubbed as ?monumental bad architecture.? From another perspective, the idea behind the building stimulates curiosity and its size sort of represents New York as a big compact city. However, its north-south orientation totally blocks Park Avenue?s view and the more valuable New York Central building.