Seagram Building

Seagram Building
General information
Type Office
Architectural style International Style
Location 375 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; -73.97219Coordinates: 40°45′30″N 73°58′20″W / 40.75846°N 73.97219°W / 40.75846; -73.97219
Completed 1958
Owner Aby Rosen
Roof 516 ft (157 m)
Technical details
Floor count 38[1][2][3][4]
Design and construction
Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe; Philip Johnson
Structural engineer Severud Associates

The Seagram Building is a skyscraper, located at 375 Park Avenue, between 52nd Street and 53rd Street 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.[6] Philip Johnson designed the interior of The Four Seasons and Brasserie restaurants.[7] Severud Associates were the structural engineering consultants.

The building stands 515 feet (157 m) tall with 38 stories, and was completed in 1958. It stands as one of the most notable examples of the functionalist aesthetic and a prominent instance of corporate modernism. It was designed as the headquarters for the Canadian distillers Joseph E. Seagram's & Sons with the active interest of Phyllis Lambert, the daughter of Samuel Bronfman, Seagram's CEO. It has the worst Energy Star rating of any building in New York, at 3 out of 100.[8]

The building is owned by Aby Rosen's RFR Holdings.[9][10]


This structure, and the International 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.[11] It was a style that argued that the functional utility of the building’s structural elements when made visible, could supplant a formal decorative articulation; and more honestly converse with the public than any system of applied ornamentation. A building's structural elements should be visible, Mies thought. The Seagram Building, like virtually all large buildings of the time, was built of a steel frame, from which non-structural glass walls were hung. Mies would have preferred the steel frame to be visible to all; however, American building codes 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 at all costs — 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]

External video
Smarthistory - Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Seagram Building[14]

On completion, the construction costs of Seagram made it the world's most expensive skyscraper at the time, due to the use of expensive, 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.

Another interesting feature of the Seagram Building is the window blinds. As was common with International style architects, Mies wanted the building to have a uniform appearance. One aspect of a façade which Mies disliked 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 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.[15]

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.[16]


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. In 1961, when New York City enacted a major revision to its 1916 Zoning Resolution, the nation's first comprehensive Zoning Resolution, it offered incentives for developers to install "privately owned public spaces" which were meant to emulate that of the Seagram's 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,[17] 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 is the location of Brasserie, designed by Diller + Scofidio.

Steinway & Sons factory

In 1859 a large 5-story piano factory was built on this same location by Steinway & Sons. The property was sold in 1906.


In the song "Side by Side by Side", from Stephen Sondheim's musical Company, one of the characters (David) says "You know what comes to my mind every time I see him? The Seagram's Building!"

In the Richard Donner film Scrooged, Bill Murray's office is in the building.[19]

In the credits of season one of That Girl, the fountains are featured prominently as Marlo Thomas walks past.[20]

In Ira Levin's book Rosemary's Baby, Hutch asks Rosemary to meet him in front of the Seagram Building, apparently to warn her of the Castevets' nefarious nature.

In the first scene of the 1959 film, The Best of Everything, Caroline (Hope Lange) is reading a "Help Wanted - Female" ad in the paper which shows the real-life address of the Seagram's Building in front of which she is standing and later goes to work.

The building is seen in Showtime's House of Lies.

The building is seen in the movie Hitch.

In the poem "Steps" by Frank O'Hara, featured in his famous book of poetry Lunch Poems, the poet mentions the Seagram Building, saying that it's "no longer rivalled in interest/not that we need liquor (we just like it)."

See also

Further reading


  1. "Seagram Building". Academic. Retrieved 2012-06-18.
  2. "Seagram Building". A View On Cities. Retrieved 2012-06-18.
  3. "AD Classics: Seagram Building / Mies van der Rohe". Academic. May 10, 2010. Retrieved 2012-06-18.
  4. "A Flavor of the '50s in a High-Tech Design". Academic. July 1, 2007. Retrieved 2012-06-18.
  5. "Seagram Building". SkyscraperPage.
  6. Lambert, Phyllis, ed. (2001). Mies in America. Harry N. Abrams. pp. 373–406.
  7. "Four Seasons & Brasserie Restaurants, Seagram Building, NYC". NYIT Architectural History. May 4, 2012. Retrieved January 29, 2013 via YouTube.
  8. "Why Green Architecture Hardly Ever Deserves the Name". ArchDaily.
  11. "The Architectural Project - Define "high tech detailing"". 1958. Retrieved 2008-01-06.
  12. Hool & Johnson (1920). Handbook of Building Construction. McGraw Hill. pp. 338 of 802.
  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. "Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Seagram Building". Smarthistory at Khan Academy. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  15. "Structure and Design", G.G. Schierle
  16. Severud Associates website, accessed 24 August 2009
  17. Vimeo, The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces
  18. Clayton Dubilier & Rice, LLC - Contact
  19. Scrooged (On the Set of New York)

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