Two New York City architectural masterpieces

LeverBros(DXO) Lever Bros. (SOM)8Seagramstower Seagrams BuildingTwo of the most important modern buildings stand  nearly opposite each other; the Lever Brothers Building at 390 Park Ave. and the Seagrams Building at 375.  The Lever Brothers Building, designed by Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill and is slighter earlier (1952,completion) and Mies van der Rohe’s Seagrams is dated 1958.  The later is probably the better known and more highly regarded.  Mies violated the continuous facade line along the east side of Park Ave by setting his building much farther back and raised on a plinth.  Combined with the bronze and gold tones of the glass and metal and squarish plan, the building was and remains a dramatic  vision.  But the Lever Brothers is more innovative as it broke with the tradition of buildings covering the entire footprint of the site.  Instead, Bunshaft lifted on columns a two story massing that covered the site.  The rest of the building is limited to a rectangular skyscraper with its narrow side facing the Avenue. But importantly, the smaller Lever Brothers facade is more attractively proportioned and more pleasing it the eye in comparison with the repetitiveness and heaviness of the decorative vertical I-beams and tall horizontal panels.  Bunshaft created a building of human scale;  van der Rohe apparently did not share that concern. (c)Bill Lebovich, all rights reserved,2014


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