Seagram Building

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Seagram Building
NewYorkSeagram 04.30.2008.JPG
General information
Type Office
Architectural style International Style
Location375 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10152
United States
Coordinates 40°45′30″N 73°58′20″W / 40.75846°N 73.97219°W / 40.75846; -73.97219
Latitude and Longitude:

40°45′30″N 73°58′20″W / 40.75846°N 73.97219°W / 40.75846; -73.97219
Owner Aby Rosen
Roof516 ft (157 m)
Technical details
Floor count38 [1]
Floor area849,014 sq ft (78,876.0 m2) [2]
Design and construction
Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe; Philip Johnson
Structural engineer Severud Associates

The Seagram Building is a skyscraper at 375 Park Avenue, between East 52nd and 53rd Streets, in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. The integral plaza, building, stone faced lobby and distinctive glass and bronze exterior were designed by German-American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. [4] Philip Johnson designed the interior of The Four Seasons and Brasserie restaurants. [5] Kahn & Jacobs were associate architects. [6] Severud Associates were the structural engineering consultants. The Seagram building was completed in 1958.

The building stands 515 feet (157 m) tall with 38 stories, and it is one of the most notable examples of the functionalist aesthetic and a prominent instance of corporate modern architecture. It was designed as the headquarters for the Canadian distillers Joseph E. Seagram & Sons with the active interest of Phyllis Lambert, the daughter of Samuel Bronfman, Seagram's CEO. [7]

The building is owned by Aby Rosen's RFR Holdings. [8] [9] The Seagram Building is on the National Register of Historic Places, and has been designated as an official city landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.


Prominent German-American Internationalist architect Mies van der Rohe was given an unlimited budget by Seagram's heiress Phyllis Lambert. [1] This structure which resulted, and the style in which it was built, had enormous influences on American architecture. One of the style's characteristic traits was to express or articulate the structure of buildings externally. [10]

External video
Smarthistory - Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Seagram Building [11]

On completion in 1958, the Seagram Building's $41 million construction cost made it the world's most expensive skyscraper at the time, [1] due to the use of costly, high-quality materials and lavish interior decoration including bronze, travertine, and marble. The interior was designed to assure cohesion with the external features, repeated in the glass and bronze furnishings and decorative scheme.


The Seagram Building was built of a steel frame, from which non-structural glass walls were hung. Mies preferred the steel frame to be visible to all; however, American building codes at the time required that all structural steel be covered in a fireproof material, usually concrete, because improperly protected steel columns or beams may soften and fail in confined fires. [12] Concrete hid the structure of the building, something Mies wanted to avoid if possible, so Mies used non-structural bronze-toned I-beams to suggest structure instead. These are visible from the outside of the building, and run vertically, like mullions, surrounding the large glass windows. This method of construction using an interior reinforced concrete shell to support a larger non-structural edifice has since become commonplace. As designed, the building used 1,500 tons of bronze in its construction. [13]

One aspect of a facade which Mies disliked was the disordered irregularity when window blinds are drawn, since people using different windows will draw blinds to different heights. As such, Mies specified window blinds which only operated in three positions: fully open, halfway open/closed, or fully closed.


Structural features

The 38-story structure combines a steel moment frame and a steel and reinforced concrete core for lateral stiffness. The concrete core shear walls extend up to the 17th floor, and diagonal core bracing (shear trusses) extends to the 29th floor. [14]

According to Severud Associates, the structural engineering consultants, it was the first tall building to use high strength bolted connections, the first tall building to combine a braced frame with a moment frame, one of the first tall buildings to use a vertical truss bracing system and the first tall building to employ a composite steel and concrete lateral frame. [15]


The Seagram Building and Lever House, which sits just across Park Avenue, set the architectural style for skyscrapers in New York City for several decades. It appears as a simple bronze box, set back from Park Avenue by a large, open granite plaza. Mies intended to create an urban open space in front of the building, despite the luxuriousness of the idea, and it became a very popular gathering area. The plaza was provided as part of the 1961 Zoning Resolution, which superseded the 1916 Zoning Resolution and offered incentives for developers to install " privately owned public spaces" which were meant to emulate that of the Seagram Building.

The Seagram Building's plaza was also the site of a landmark planning study by William H. Whyte, the American sociologist. The film, Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, [16] produced in conjunction with the Municipal Art Society of New York, records the daily patterns of people socializing around the plaza. It shows how people actually use space, varying from the supposed intent of the architects.


The building was home to The Four Seasons Restaurant, designed by the architects, and Brasserie, by Diller + Scofidio. It now hosts three restaurants, The Grill, The Pool, and The Lobster Club, all of which are owned by Major Food Group.



Joseph Seagram sold the building in 1979 to the New York City-based Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association for $70.5 million. [17] It was in turn sold at the height of the new millennium real estate boom to New York City real estate investor Aby Rosen for $375 million in 2000. [1]


See also


  1. ^ a b c d On Park Avenue, Another Trophy Changes Hands
  2. ^ "NYC's Zoning and Land Use Map". ZoLa. New York City Department of Planning.
  3. ^ "Seagram Building". SkyscraperPage.
  4. ^ Lambert, Phyllis, ed. (2001). Mies in America. Harry N. Abrams. pp. 373–406.
  5. ^ "Four Seasons & Brasserie Restaurants, Seagram Building, NYC". NYIT Architectural History. May 4, 2012. Retrieved January 29, 2013 – via YouTube.
  6. ^ "Seagram Building, Individual Landmark" (PDF). NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. Retrieved March 8, 2018.
  7. ^ Mehaffy, Michael; Salingaros, Nikos (July 3, 2013). "Why Green Architecture Hardly Ever Deserves the Name". ArchDaily.
  8. ^ "Aby Rosen is the life of the party". New York Times. May 30, 2013.
  9. ^
  10. ^ "The Architectural Project - Define "high tech detailing"". 1958. Retrieved January 6, 2008.[ dead link]
  11. ^ "Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Seagram Building". Smarthistory at Khan Academy. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  12. ^ Hool & Johnson (1920). Handbook of Building Construction. McGraw Hill. pp.  338.
  13. ^ "New Skyscraper on Park Avenue To Be First Sheathed in Bronze; 38-Story House of Seagram Will Use 3,200,000 Pounds of Alloy in Outer Walls Colored for Weathering", The New York Times, March 2, 1956. p. 25
  14. ^ "Structure and Design", G.G. Schierle
  15. ^ Severud Associates website, accessed August 24, 2009
  16. ^ Vimeo, The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces
  17. ^ Landmark Move Is Backed
  18. ^ Clayton Dubilier & Rice, LLC - Contact

Further reading

External links