The Useful Square: Seagram Building
The history of the building designed by Mies van der Rohe (1886-1968) is well known. Not only is the building of interest, but also the way in which the plaza created by Mies for his celebrated skyscraper influenced the planning of public spaces in New York.
This expansive plaza, running the breadth of an entire block along Park Avenue, is one of the key features of the Seagram skyscraper. It is known that Mies spent a long time making a thorough study of a model of the entire district around the building and frequently strolled down Park Avenue in order to find the perfect site for the future tower. Ignoring dry economics and the usual strategies for maximum utilisation of a lot, Mies set the tower back from the street by 30 metres. This generosity had one purpose: to place a spacious public plaza in front of the building. And this was in the heart of the world’s financial capital during a period of unrestrained economic growth!
Seagram Building, New York Main Façade on Park Avenue © Richard Pare
Seagram Building, New York © Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal
Main image: © Ezra Stoller/Esto