In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of interesting facts about the Seagram Building, a remarkable feat of International Style architecture.
1. The Seagram Building is located in Midtown Manhattan
This skyscraper is located at 375 Park Avenue between East 52nd and 53rd Streets in Midtown Manhattan, New York City.
Central Park is located about half a mile to the northwest of the building.
2. It’s far from being the tallest skyscraper in the city
The building stands just 516 feet (157 meters) tall, which does make it a skyscraper as a height of 492 feet (150 meters) is needed to qualify it as such.
This height makes it far from the tallest building in New York as there are even over 150 buildings taller!
It also has 38 floors mostly consisting of office space and the building is also home to 3 restaurants. It has a total floor area of 849,014 square feet (78,876 square meters).
3. The Seagram Building was completed in the late 1950s
One of the most interesting facts about the Seagram Building is that despite its modern appearance, it wasn’t built recently.
Construction of the building started in the year 1957 and it opened its doors just a year later in 1958.
4. It was built to serve as the headquarters of a Canadian distiller of whiskey
The building was originally commissioned to serve as the headquarters of Canadian distillers Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, which later became Seagram Company Ltd.
This company started out as a distillery of Canadian Whiskey and eventually became the world’s largest owner of alcoholic beverage lines in the world in the 1990s.
Joseph Seagram ended up selling the building in 1979 for $70.5 million USD.
5. It was designed by a pioneer of the modernist architectural style
The main architect of the building was German-American Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969), a pioneer of the modernist and more specifically the internationalist architectural styles.
He was a big proponent of functionalism, the idea that every architectural element should support the function of the building. Therefore, the Seagram Building is considered to be a prime example of corporate modern architecture.
6. The building had a tremendous influence on American architecture
Back in the 1950s, the Seagram Building, together with the Lever House that was completed 6 years earlier, were unique skyscrapers. They started a revolution and set the tone for architecture in the city for multiple decades.
The main difference with existing buildings was that the structural steel was supposed to be hidden. The supportive steel was required by law to be covered in fire-proof materials, usually concrete.
Mies wanted the steel to be visible and used bronze instead. The windows aren’t supporting elements and basically serve as glass walls that were hung from the steel frame.
7. There’s something about the window blinds of the building
Mies liked everything to be well-organized and basically hated the fact that blinds could be drawn to different heights. Because of this, he integrated a particular setup to avoid this.
The architect, who was definitely somewhat of a perfectionist, integrated fixed positions for the blinds, open, halfway open, and closed. This way, all the blinds will appear similar most of the time!
8. It was a unique building in many ways upon completion
The blinds were far from the only unique element used in the building’s construction. The structural features are equally unique and many elements were used for the first time during the construction of the building.
The structural engineer of the project, Severud Associates, mentioned that the building 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.
- The first tall building to employ composite steel and concrete lateral frame.
Yes, the Seagram Building can definitely be described as a reference building of modern architecture!
9. It was the most expensive building in the world at the time
One of the biggest drivers of the project was Phyllis Lambert, who was the daughter of Seagram CEO Samuel Bronfman. She literally gave Mies an unlimited budget and being an architect herself, was closely involved with the design of the building.
One of the most fascinating facts about the Seagram Building is that 1,500 tonnes of bronze were used during construction, as well as numerous other expensive building materials such as travertine and marble.
The interior is lavishly designed as well, resulting in a total construction cost of $41 million USD, which made it the most expensive building in the world at the time!
10. The Seagram Building Plaza was including in a new zoning resolution
Another suggestion made by Mies was to create a public open urban plaza in front of the building instead of using all the available space to construct the building.
Because of this idea, and the success of this urban plaza as a meeting area, it was included in the 1961 Zoning Resolution and offered incentives to developers if they integrated a “privately owned public space” in their design.
That’s yet another fact that makes the building massively important in New York City!
11. The 4 Seasons Restaurant in the building closed because of the high rent
The building was home to the “Four Seasons Restaurant,” a “New American Cuisine” restaurant that opened its doors in the year 1959. It wasn’t just one of the most renowned restaurants in the world, winning numerous awards, but also featured a unique design and became an interior New York landmark in 1989.
Unfortunately, the restaurant, which features curtains designed by Pablo Picasso, had to close its doors in the year 2016.
That’s because the owner of the building, Aby Rosen, who bought the building during the real estate boom in the early 2000s for $375 million USD, increased the rent from $20 to $105 per square foot.
It was eventually replaced by 3 new restaurants that don’t have problems paying their rent, The Grill, The Pool, and The Lobster Club, places owned by the Major Food Group.
12. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places
This skyscraper is one of the most iconic buildings in New York and has been a major influence on numerous other buildings all across the city. This has been recognized both locally and nationally!
It has been added to the National Register of Historic Places on February 24, 2006, and has been designated as an official city landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission on October 3, 1989, as well!