Made to be the head office for Canadian-born liquor makers Joseph E. Seagram and Sons, Seagram Building is a pioneering structure which started a trend in the blueprint of New York high-rises for several decades after it was built.
Located on Park Avenue, one of NYC?s popular neighborhoods, in the middle of 52nd Street and 53rd Street, Seagram Building was conceptualized by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, a genius architect who hails from Germany in partnership with Philip Johnson. Seagram Building is a trailblazer in terms of skyscraper architecture as it inspired other buildings that were constructed in the following 40 years.
Majority of the skyscrapers built during the 1950s and the years that preceded featured embellished facades constructed around a structural framework. Being the visionary that he is, van der Rohe deviated from the ubiquitous and designed a skyscraper wherein the structural elements can be seen. Unluckily, NYC?s building codes does not allow such design and require all structural steel to be cladded using fire-resistant materials.
Determined to fulfill his vision, van der Rohe recreated the framework on the outside by using bronze-colored, non-structural I-beams. The steel girders tread the 516-foot skyscraper vertically, similar to mullions in the building?s humongous windows. Another dilemma of the German architect was the possibility of looking disjointed and inconsistent. To address this, van der Rohe designed the windows blinds in such a way that it can only operate in three levels which are fully closed, half open and fully open to achieve a more uniform appearance.
Through the Seagram Building, Mies van der Rohe?s architecture school of thought that less is more was realized and was regarded by many critics and architects as a masterpiece.
Building the Seagram Building was not an easy and cheap project. Records show that the amount of bronze used for the skyscraper totaled to 3.2 million pounds. This was coupled with the use of other luxurious materials such as travertine and marble. By the time it was completed, the Seagram Building was the most costly skyscraper of its generation amounting to $41 million which includes the money spent in buying the plot of land where the building stands worth $5 million.
One of the groundbreaking features of the Seagram Building is the granite plaza fronting the building which was added as a work around the 1916 zoning policies. The granite plaza became a hit hang out spot for many urbanites during the building?s baby years. Due to the plaza?s success, New York City put forward a proposal to encourage developers to build ?privately owned public spaces.? Unfortunately, the initiative was not successful.