Midtown Manhattan's Lever House marked a watershed in U.S. architecture when completed in 1952. Located on the west side of Park Avenue between 53rd and 54th Streets, the corporate headquarters—with its façade of blue-green glass and stainless steel mullions—was one of the first glass-walled International Style office buildings in the U.S. To save on air conditioning, there were no operable windows; the glass was tinted blue.Three of the most notable people involved with the project include Gordon Bunshaft, the design Principal at SOM, and Natalie de Blois who assisted him as the Project Designer, and Charles Luckman. Trained as an architect, his first job was drafting for Pepsodent Toothpaste's marketing department. He turned out to be so gifted as sales, that in short order he became the President of Pepsodent landing on the cover of Time Magazine as the 'Boy Wonder of American Business' at the ripe old age of 30. He became the US President of Unilever, decided to move the company from Boston to New York, and secured the block on Park Avenue. The UN had just been completed and he wanted to commission the modern office of the future. He commissioned Skidmore Owings and Merrill; and met with the partners in a hotel room so no one at Unilever would catch whiff of his plans. The design breakthrough was a reading of the zoning code that allowed the building to be a rectangular tower it occupied less than 25% of its site instead of a ziggurat. This was a the first time anyone had done this. Additional amenities included a ground floor Art Gallery, a computer room on the second floor, and the plaza. Due to cost overruns, Luckman was actually fired prior to move in. He called his former Architecture School roommate, William Pereira who invited Luckman to join his small office in Los Angeles. They build a practice in LA before splitting. The renovation begun in 1998 added the Isamu Noguchi sculpture garden which had been planned but never installed.

Constructed, 1952
Exterior Renovation, 2003


Related Sites

Related Playlist