Seagram Building

Seagram Building
  1. About the Seagram Building in New York
    1. Building Catalogations
  2. Architect and team
  3. Architectureal style
  4. Spaces and uses
  5. Structure and materials

The Seagram Building is an International Style skyscraper designed between 1954 and 1955 by Mies van der Rohe and built between 1955 and 1958, for a reported $37.8 million dollars, in New York, NY.

Its precise street address is 375 Park Ave, New York, NY. You can also find it on the map here.

The Seagram Building is a structure of significant importance both for the city of New York and the United States as a nation. The building embodies the distinctive characteristic features of the time in which it was built and the International Style style. Because of that, the Seagram Building was officially included in the National Register of Historic Places on February 24th 2006, and was also included in the New York Register of Historic Places on October 3rd 1989.

Mies decides to take a step back from 4th avenue and created a plaza in front of the building. At that time it was not common for a private project to create public space, but Mies thought the "breathing" space was necessary in order to appreciate the architecture.

The Seagram Building soon became the typological example for office towers. For Mies himself, the Seagram Building was the perfect materialization of Universal Space for the working environment.

The building underwent a major restoration in 2016.

Building's timeline

Design begins
Construction begins
Construction completed
Added to the New York RHP
Added to the NRHP
years ago
  1. 2016 - The facade, the plaza and the fountains of the plaza were renovated. Two floors of the basement were also turned from parking space to a gym.

Architect and team

Mies van der Rohe was the architecture firm in charge of the architectural design.

But that's not all, there was also a whole team of architects involved, which included: Philip Johnson, Ely Jacques Kahn, and Robert Allan Jacobs.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was born in 1886 in Germany. During the first part of his career, he ran his own practice in Berlin, and later on became the director of the Bauhaus School of Architecture.

Mies is considered one of the fathers of modern architecture. His work played an instrumental role in defining the aesthetics of the International Style, emphasizing simplicity, clean lines, and the use of modern materials like steel and glass. His famous statement, "less is more" sums up his design philosophy, which advocated for the elimination of unnecessary ornamentation and a return to the fundamental principles of architecture.

After the Bauhaus was shut down by the Natzi regime, he emigrated to Chicago. There he became the director of the IIT School of Architecture, as well as ran his own architectural firm. During his years in Chicago he continued to explore and promote the principles of the International Style, and had a huge impact on the development of modern skyscrapers.

His legacy can not only be found spread throughout Europe and the US in the shape of iconic buildings such as the German Pavilion, the Tugendhat House, the Crown Hall or the Seagram Building, but also in the architecture curriculum he developed at the IIT which greatly influenced many generations of architects, even to this day.

Mies Van Der Rohe

Mies van der Rohe and the other architects already mentioned were in charge of the architectural design, however, architecture is a complex discipline, which usually involves many professionals from different fields, without whom this building would have not been possible. We will surely be leaving out a lot of names here, but here is a list of the people we do know also played their part in making the Seagram Building a reality:

  • Severud Associates Consulting Engineers in charge of Structural Engineering
  • Jaros, Baum & Bolles in charge of MEP Engineering

Architectural Style

The Seagram Building can be categorized as an International Style building.

The international style originated in Europe in the early 20th century, and made its way to the US a couple of decades later when the rise of the Nazi regime forced figures such as Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, or Mies van der Rohe to flee Europe.

The International Style emerged as a response to the prevailing historicism and ornate architecture styles of the late 19th century, which according to a younger generation of architects didn't represent the new materials and construction techniques that were on the rise at the time.

Architecture in the early 20th century US was marked by the adoption of steel structures, modern construction techniques, and the rise of the skyscraper. As it turns out, this combination of circumstances created the perfect ecosystem for the International Style to flourish, becoming the to-go style for skyscraper designs during the mid-20th century, when American cities were growing fast.

The International Style’s legacy can not only be found in numerous iconic buildings across all major American cities, but also incorporated in contemporary architecture, which still puts a big emphasis on functionality and minimalism.

The Seagram Building was designed in 1954. By 1954 the International Style movement had already left its early days behind and could be considered a mature movement, which does not mean it was loved and accepted by everyone, on the contrary. The International Style was accepted by the architecture community way before it was by the general public, and it is therefore likely that the Seagram Building was not well received by everyone at the time.

Spaces & Uses

The Seagram Building reaches an architectural height of 515ft (157m). It has a total of 41 floors, 38 above ground and 3 basements, served by 18 elevators.

The building sits on a 59,944 sqf (5,569m2) piece of land , and offers a total of 853,997 sqf (79,339m2) of usable space.

Ever since opening its doors to the public in 1958, the Seagram Building has mainly been used as Commercial space.

515ft (157m)
3 basements

Materials & Structure

The Seagram Building uses a frame structure made of steel columns and reinforced concrete slabs.

A frame structure uses a combination of beams and columns to sustain the building's weight. The walls in this case are non-load bearing, which allows for more flexibility when distributing the interior spaces.

The facade is non-load bearing either, as it is common in frame structure type buildings.

NY building regulations did not allow for steel structures to remain exposed, as they could be more vulnerable during fires. To address that, exterior columns and all beams are encased in concrete; interior columns are fireproofed with gypsum block

From an aesthetic point of view, the facade features a curtain wall composed of 153,000 sq.ft. of bronze cladding and 122,000 sq.ft. of pinkish-gray tinted glass.

The tower is articulated by four-and-one-half by six inch bronze I-beam extrusions, continuous vertical elements applied to represent structural intent and provide shadow to the surface. Horizontal bands, created by Muntz metal spandrels and pinkish-gray glass, balance the exterior's strong verticality.

Mies was so concerned about the aesthetics of the facade from the outside that he created a custom system that would only allow the blinds to be either open, closed, or half-closed, ensuring uniformity across all windows.

The building is crowned by a metal grid spanning the height of 3 floors.

Another material found at the Seagram Building is travertine marble, used for the continuous pavement that covers the plaza (outdoor) and the lobby (indoor).