Public platform Seagram building

© Richard Pare

The Seagram Building on Park Avenue between 52nd and 53rd streets was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and completed in 1958. The building’s particular conception and construction were largely driven by the vision of then-twentysomething Phyllis Lambert, daughter of Seagram’s founder Samuel Bronfman.

Seagram Building Technical Information

  • Architect: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
  • Four Season Restaurant Architect: Philip Johnson
  • Location: 375 Park Avenue, New York, United States
  • Type of Construction: Structural steel, Concrete, Bronze
  • Builder: George A. Fuller Company 
  • Client: Joseph E. Seagram and Sons, Inc, (Phyllis Lambert)
  • Dimensions: 38 floors
  • Typology: Commercial / Office
  • Height: 516 ft (157 m)
  • Floor Area: 849,014 sq ft (78,876.0 m2)
  • Style: International Style
  • Structural Engineer: Severud Associates, Elstad’ Krueger, Jaros, Baum & Bolles
  • Completion Year: 1958
  • Drawings: © Mies Van Der Rohe
  • Photographs: © House of Patria (construction), © Ezra Stoller, © Richard Pare, © Irving Penn
  • Sources: Canadian Centre for Architecture | Seagram Preservation Commission

We refuse to recognize problems of form, but only problems of building. Form is not the aim of our work, but only the result. Form, by itself, does not exist. Form as an aim is formalism; and that we reject.

– Mies Van Der Rohe

Seagram Building Photographs
Exterior Facade

© Ezra Stoller

Seagram Building in New york by Mies Van Der Rohe

© Ezra Stoller

Historic photograph Seagram Building in New york by Mies Van Der Rohe

© Ezra Stoller

Detail

© Ezra Stoller

Model of the building and Mies Van Der Rohe

© Irving Penn

TEXT FROM THE SEAGRAM PRESERVATION COMMISSION

The Seagram Building, erected in 1956-58, is the only building in New York City designed by architectural master I.udwig Mies van der Rohe. Carefully related to the tranquil granite and marble plaza on its Park Avenue site, the elegant curtain wall of bronze and tinted glass enfolds the first fully modular modern office tower.

Constructed at a time when Park Avenue was changing from an exclusive residential thoroughfare to a prestigious business address, the Seagram Building embodies the quest of a successful corporation to establish further its public image through architectural patronage.

Like virtually all large buildings of the time, it was built in a steel frame, from which non-structural glass walls were hung. Mies would have preferred the steel frame to be visible; however, American building codes required that all structural steel needed to be covered in a fireproof material because improperly protected steel columns or beams may soften and fail in confined fires. Concrete hid the structure of the building – which Mies wanted to avoid – so the architect used non-structural bronze-toned I-beams to suggest structure instead. The beams 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.

Another interesting feature of the Seagram Building is the window blinds. Mies wanted the building to have a uniform appearance. One aspect Mies disliked about facades was the disordered irregularity when window blinds are drawn. Inevitably, people using different windows will draw blinds to different heights, making the building appear disorganized. To reduce this disproportionate appearance, Mies specified window blinds which only operated in three positions – fully open, halfway open/closed, or fully closed.

The structure combines a steel moment frame and a 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.

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.

On completion in 1958, the $41 million construction costs of Seagram made it the world’s most expensive skyscraper at the time, 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.

Construction Photographs
Construction photograph Seagram Building in New york by Mies Van Der Rohe

© House of Patria

Construction photograph Seagram Building in New york by Mies Van Der Rohe

© House of Patria

Construction photograph Seagram Building in New york by Mies Van Der Rohe

© House of Patria

Construction photograph Seagram Building in New york by Mies Van Der Rohe

© House of Patria

Construction photograph Seagram Building in New york by Mies Van Der Rohe

© House of Patria

Construction photograph Seagram Building in New york by Mies Van Der Rohe

© House of Patria

Seagram Building Plans
Floor Plan Seagram Building in New york by Mies Van Der Rohe

© Mies Van Der Rohe

Floor Plan Seagram Building in New york by Mies Van Der Rohe

© Mies Van Der Rohe

About Mies Van Der Rohe

Among the most prominent and influential architects of the twentieth century, German-born Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) was initiated into architecture through the fields of masonry, stone carving, stucco decoration, and furniture design, before working as an architect in the office of Peter Behrens.

By the end of the 1920s, Mies had emerged as one of Germany’s leading architects, noted for his visionary skyscraper projects wherein the apparently weightless and clearly revealed “skin and bone” modern construction permitted the greatest play of light on the building surface.

Seagram Building Image Gallery

Other works from Mies Van der Rohe