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Great buildings.

New York's Fifty Finest Buildings

Chicago may be the birthplace of the skyscraper and an architectural favorite; the capitals of the Far East may put national pride on the line as they vie to build the tallest. But nowhere is the skyscraper more at home than in New York, where building tall is the norm. No other city can compete with its sheer number and density of skyscrapers--they are where we live, work and relax.

And so to choose the 50 most significant of the last 50 years was a daunting task. How does one define significance? First? Size? Bulk? Architectural merit? Effect on the marketplace? Public impact?

How about all of the above? Once fulfilled, we measured these criteria against the industry's premiere index, the BOMA/NY Pinnacle Awards, to determine overall quality, for these honors go behind the scenes to measure how well the investment is operating today, something no city guide or reference book can do.

Above all we were looking for stories in the stone and glass and the stainless steel. We hope the ones we've shared here will help you look at the skyline with new eyes.

Breaking Boundaries

Other cities morph into urban sprawl; New York renews itself. By rebuilding or building new in neighborhoods that have lived past their prime, or have yet to fulfill their promise, the business capital of the world has continually redefined itself to an extent few in America have.

375 Hudson Street

Three decades ago, the Parish of Trinity Church assessed its vast landholdings throughout Lower Manhattan's printing district and saw an opportunity to convert the solidly built, but aging manufacturing stock into superbly outfitted office buildings of the future.

But if they renovated, who would come? Not only did the creative arts flock to the new neighborhood renamed Hudson Square, but Trinity's determination and positive bottom-line results sparked the creativity of the world's largest ad agency ad the time--Saatchi and Saatchi. The agency was on a global acquisition binge in the mid-80's and desperate for growing room.

With Tishman at the helm as developer, Skidmore Owings & Merrill on the drawing boards, and Turner Construction supplying the construction know-how, the just under 1,000,000 sq. ft. building at 375 Hudson Street was the first to rise in its neighborhood since the Great Depression. Its huge floorplates, coupled with panoramic views and a sleek design, was tailor made for Saatchi and Saatchi, which moved into the bulk of the building's 19 floors in the late 80s. Since that time, the newly redefined market has been a haven for the creative industries and the businesses that serve them, and continue to fuel its growth.

461 Fifth Avenue

Pinnacle Award--Operating (under 250,000 sf)

Fifth Avenue south of 42nd Street was not Class A territory until 1986 when an international triumvirate headed by Mitsui Fudosan began developing the northeast corner of 40th and Fifth as a luxurious speculative office tower. While the market watched from afar, Skidmore*wings & Merrill's Raul D'Armas designed a gem, and the developers outfitted the interiors to the level "The Avenue" demanded. As the building quickly leased, a standard was set for both The Avenue and office towers of a smaller size. New development, including the much larger and fellow Pinnacle Winner, 420 Fifth Avenue, (Operating 500,000-1 million sf) followed--development which would have been inconceivable had it not been for the 26-story tower that permanently changed the Fifth Avenue landscape.

180 Maiden Lane

Pinnacle Award--Operating (1 million sf+)

On the night of September 11, this gleaming emerald glass tower on the East River waterfront was able to stay alight, thanks to management's foresight in having previously installed emergency generating systems. That forward-thinking measure was just the latest in a series of decisions that characterized the building from its start. For the 41-story building was the first to rise in what was to become the South Street Seaport office market and one of the first major towers built in Manhattan following the lean years of the 70's, breaking ground towards the end of that decade. Sleekly sophisticated in its sheer-faced design, the building rose in marked contrast to its historic neighbors, became an East River landmark, and has continued to hold its value today.

Developed for Continental Insurance Company as its US headquarters, 180 Maiden Lane gave impetus to a building boom that saw it quickly followed by such major towers as the 31-story 175 Water Street, originally developed as the stateside headquarters for National Westminster Bank; One Seaport Plaza, a luxurious, 1,000,000-sf speculative tower developed by the Resnick enterprise, and Financial Square, also 1 million-sf, that was developed by the Paramount Group, Inc. on an historic Old Slip site that brought high-tech facilities to its financial community tenants.

Penn Plaza

Pinnacle Award Nominee--Operating (1 million sf+)

Built after Pan Am had broken the mold for juxtaposing and joining skyscrapers to rail stations, Penn Plaza has twice, in its four-decade career, focused the office market on the 34th Street area. Ironically, 2 Penn was built first in 1968, joining Madison Square Garden and Pennsylvania Station. When 1 Penn was completed in 1972 above the Garden, its massive size--at 2 million-sf New York's fourth largest office building--dominated the low-rise Garment Center neighborhood. Renovated extensively in 1995, 1 Penn once again focused attention on 34th Street, which subsequently underwent street improvements. Today, its 2-story high "1" neon logos atop the tower are a permanent beacon, clearly visible throughout the West Side and from across the Hudson.

World Financial Center

American Express Tower--Pinnacle and Regional TOBY Award (Corporate Facility)

Widely hailed for both the breadth and detail of its planning, the World Financial Center was the office component to New York's first new urban development of its kind since Rockefeller Center. Accolades were also accorded to architect Cesar Pelli's sensitive master plan, which conceived of the entire project in proportion to its proud neighbor--the World Trade Center, on whose excavations it was built--and rendered it in a blend of corporate Post-Modernism and Art Deco's sense of scale and mass.

Its four office towers lie at the heart of Battery Park City and house some of Wall Street's finest firms, including American Express at Three World Financial Center. They are surrounded by a strong sense of community fostered by then-developer Olympia & York (now Brookfield Properties) whose determination to bring outstanding retail, restaurants, entertainment and recreational space to the new world being created within Battery Park City has made it one of the finest developments of its kind in America. Bordering on North Cove Marina, the World Financial Center tenants are joined by many New Yorkers and tourists to enjoy tree-lined streets and lush gardens, outdoor patio dining, harbor views, a shopping concourse catering to high-end goods or entertainment at the glass jewel box of the Winter Garden.

Sustaining severe, and in the case of the Winter Garden, devastating, damage on 9/11, the Center was quickly repaired and the completely restored Winter Garden opened September 12, 2002 with a new glass facade that is as breathtaking as the original design.

Worldwide Plaza

Deep in the heart of the territory where the fictional Jets and Sharks once rumbled is Worldwide Plaza, which, with one bold stroke, transported the sophistication of Class A Midtown space to Eighth Avenue. It was the first building in years to be associated with the name Zeckendorf, whose once flamboyant, bold thinking re-merged at Worldwide Plaza.

But a 1.6 million office tower on the western boundary of Midtown? It was certainly a risk in the early 80s, but one that advertising and entertainment, two of New York's long-standing economic engines, took to heart, leasing offices in the 47-story tower with the distinctive triangular crown. Today, World Wide Plaza is the centerpiece of a mixed-use development including low-rise residential buildings, cafes, shopping and a Cineplex with the best ticket deals on the West Side. Created by Skidmore Owings & Merrill in a Post Modern/retro motif, it is a towering presence on the West Side and a contributor to the westward movement that helped revive the redevelopment of Times Square.

That Entrepreneurial Drive

Excessive or excellent? Building to fill a need of the market or ego? Risk takers or visionaries? Real estate cannot thrive without entrepreneurs and some of the best are home grown, their spectacular successes drawing other dreamers from Canada, Europe and the Far East to join them. For all their misfires and homeruns, one thing is certain: the New York skyline would look like a backwater capital without their contributions.

1177 Avenue of the Americas

Pinnacle Award--two time winner, Operating (500,000 to 1 million sf)

After an auspicious beginning by Far Eastern developers, this lavish Post Modern-Deco granite tower was launched with much fanfare in the late 80's, came to an empty halt 3/4 finished, and then went on to completion, successful leasing and operating excellence. Financial difficulties and the discord between ownership entities were left behind and the tower just shy of 1 million square feet, twice claimed BOMA/NY honors for best operating building in its class. Featuring a dramatic, Machine-era designed crown and spire, numerous setbacks and fine detailing throughout, the tower of unpolished pink granite was sold in 2002, after winning its second Pinnacle award, to a Paramount Group-led consortium for a healthy $500 million.

Carnegie Hall Tower

Pinnacle Award--New Construction

Architect Cesar Pelli created a design in harmony with it neighbors at this most spectacular of "sliver" buildings, developed in a joint venture by the City of New York and Rockrose Development. Sixty stories high--its website proudly proclaims it the 100th tallest building in the world--the tower reflects adjacent Carnegie Hall's sienna colored facade by using tones of orange and brown in a highly patterned facade, and defining features that respect the ornamentation of its famous low-rise neighbor. In fact, if the owner of the Russian Tea Room had not "held out", a larger and probably more efficient, tower would have been built on the site and enveloped the space used by Macklowe in his starkly dramatic, black glass Metropolitan Tower. That 78-story skyscraper, a mix of office and luxury residential condominiums above, is separated from Carnegie Hall tower by only 20 feet.

666 Fifth Avenue

Pinnacle Award--Renovated Building

Drinks at the Top of the Sixes were a rite of passage into newly minted adulthood for a generation of New Yorkers, drawn to the swank rooftop restaurant at 666 Fifth Avenue for its nighttime city panorama. Built in the late 1950's by Tishman, it offered some of New York's best views and its distinctive embossed aluminum panels remain unique among city facades. Acquired by Sumitomo in the 1990s, the new owners poured millions more into the building, creating spectacular retail flagships for Brooks Brothers and the NBA, a renovated subway entrance, and a serene and sensitively stored lobby. And in a bow to the fashions of the times, the Top of the Sixes was brought back to life as the Grand Havana Room.

425 Lexington Avenue

Pinnacle and Regional TOBY Award--Operating (500,000--1 million sf)

The City's long drought of design by world-class architects was broken in the late 1980's when Helmut Jahn made his spectacular debut at 425 Lexington. Considered the most notable of the stars at the time, he created a richly detailed Post Modernist tower--complete with a new definition of the traditional cornice hundreds of feet above the street--for Olympia and York, who built the 31-story tower as a spec enterprise. A luxurious tower at 43rd Street, in what had been regarded as a secondary neighborhood, attracted a sophisticated roster of international tenants, evidence of how location and design successfully reinforce each other.

599 Lexington Avenue

Pinnacle and Regional TOBY Award-Operating (all categories, local; Regional 500,000-1 million sf)

The prismatic angles of this tower just shy of one million square feet created a distinctive image of its own and a spacious plaza at the base, a rarity among Lexington Avenue towers. At the same time it deferred to and thus came into harmony with, its famous neighbor, Citicorp. Developed by Boston Properties in the mid-1980's, the tower features Class A services, blue chip tenants and a massive original work by artist Frank Stella.

It also made a substantial contribution to the comfort of subway riders, finally joining the subway links between the heavily traveled #6, E and F lines, and extending access and egress one block south via its attractive plaza entrance. Continually renewed and upgraded, 599 was recognized by BOMA/ NY more than a decade after it was built for overall operating excellence.

520 Madison Avenue

Pinnacle Award--Operating (500,000-1 million sf)

What has been folded into New York real estate folklore as one of the most spectacular holdouts of the late 70's postponed the debut of 520 Madison. But the 43-story tower later took its own place in real estate history as the lynchpin of a new concentration of Post Modern skyscrapers in the upper reaches of Midtown. It redrew the market boundaries and created a new standard for spec office buildings--it was luxuriously clad entirely in granite. Built and fully leased within 24 months, it opened as the first investment grade, stone clad office tower in a decade. One of the original ventures of Tishman Speyer, now an influential name world wide, the company invested in its own vision, making 520 its global headquarters. Also located in this Pinnacle-winner is one of the world's most famous pieces of real estate--a segment of the Berlin Wall.

55 Water Street

When finished in 1972 this 3.6-million-sf blockbuster created by the Uris family dethroned the Pan Am Building as the world's largest commercial building. But from the beginning, everything about this International Style Emery Roth classic was larger than life. It was constructed on a super block created by joining four city blocks--arranged in cooperation with the City--which expected public amenities in return. Today a 36,000-square-foot elevated riverfront plaza stands atop a 560-car garage; its original intent was a futuristic urban walkway combined with riverside public spaces and access to the proposed extension of the subway along the East River. Following a major renovation by Kohn Pederson Fox and dramatic refurbishments to all its public areas, including the newly rededicated Vietnam Veteran's Memorial located on its grounds, the building continues to be a highly profitable investment for its pension fund owner and remains the second largest privately-owned building in America.

The British and Their Buildings

In the mid-80's, British entrepreneurs brought a new perspective to New York, filling in previously undevelopable spaces, often located mid-block and always with a smaller footprint than typically developed by Americans. The added twist? Office towers that appealed to a new market: the upscale tenant who wanted luxurious design and amenities, and full floor identity on floors of no more than 10,000, often 6 or 7,000 square feet. Numerous buildings were developed this way: One Exchange Place and 45 Broadway Atrium in Downtown; Tower 56, Heron Tower and 150 East 52nd Street in Midtown. With architects like Fox & Fowle and Kohn Pederson Fox designing the towers, they proved poshness didn't demand an avenue address, and went on to attract a following among well-heeled European tenants establishing a primary New York office.

And New York recognized the excellence of the entrepreneurs' visions. Both Heron Tower and 150 East 52nd Street, later sold to Japanese concerns by their original owners, won Pinnacle Award honors for operational excellence in the under 500,000 sf category. 150 was known for providing an unheard-of ten corner offices per floors through an imaginative setback design, and Heron Tower provided genteel luxury for those needing as little as 4,600 sf of corporate identity.

53rd at Third

Dubbed the Lipstick Building not long after its ascending elliptical shape took form, 53rd at Third marked the debut of Texas developer, Hines Interests, in the Manhattan, and exemplified the developer' reputation for being high on esthetics and ambiance, while employing technology and services needed to support a workforce toiling well beyond 9 to 5. Perhaps the tower is most well known for its out-of-the-box Phillip Johnson design, which brought unconventionality to the Third Avenue streetwall and a profile unlike any other in New York. But the unusual design was not without cost and required customized solution specially design HVAC and ventilation fixtures. Rentals and loss factor are steep, but the building's cachet, which extends to the Lobby Lipstick cafe and the 3-star Vong restaurant, keep the building full and prosperous.

At practically the same time, Hines was developing 31 West 52nd Street, with marquee architect Kevin Roche in charge of design. The 30-story tower of rose granite symbolized the 80's Post Modernism that critics considered to be one of the finest examples of that booming era.

Corporate Capital of the World

The irony of some of New York's great "corporate buildings" is that the great corporations are no longer there, opting out of the real estate business--often at a handsome profit--while maintaining a presence in the tower that bears their name. Many are by signature architects; just as many have undergone dramatic transformations into multi-tenant buildings in capital improvement projects as costly as building new in any other city. Some have rewritten real estate history.

1251 Avenue of the Americas

Pinnacle, TOBY International and FIABCI global winner-Renovated

The might of a corporation lingers in the monuments it builds long after it has gone.

Such was the case with 1251, the second tallest building in Rockefeller Center and the former Exxon World Headquarters, built when the oil conglomerate was the largest company in the world. Witness the misfire of Australian band, Midnight Oil, who in the early 90's staged a mild protest performance in front of the building, supposedly contesting the power of Exxon. The event badly misfired--Exxon had relocated years before to Texas and the towering 54-story skyscraper was already sporting its new 1251 logo. But the aura of being built for #1 lingered, and it was part of the reason the building would succeed in its new role as a headquarters center, for it had been built unsparingly, with only the finest materials and services.

By the late 80s, the tower was embarking on a renovation that was to become one of the great real estate industry transformation stories, (despite the word not reaching overseas rock and roll circles.) And that transformation, engineered by the largest real state firm in the world at the time--Mitsui Fudosan--would set the standard for repositioning and serve as the prime example of how a building built for one purpose could take on another life. Mitsui, which still retains the building for its area headquarters, undertook a $70 million, five-year capital improvements project, keeping the building's finest features and adding new ones. It comprehensively renovated all mechanical systems, the lobby and other features, while creating a tenant relations program unequalled at the time. Its operational excellence is the most honored of any New York tower; Midnight Oil is in the bargain rack as a 1-CD wonder.

Met Life Buildings

Current Pinnacle A ward Nominee, Past Pinnacle A ward Winner and TOBY Regional Winner--Operating (1 million sf)

The Metropolitan Life Company, like the Morgan and Chase family of companies, has made enormous corporate contributions to the Manhattan skyline. Its influence began early in the last century with architects fashioning towers in almost every style known to skyscraper design.

200 Park Avenue

The flagship of Met Life's fleet today stands atop Grand Central Terminal, where it began, as many great structures have, amid controversy. For even before it opened in 1963, the Pan Am Building, as it was then known, was writing its signature on the New York skyline and beyond. Designed on an "undeveloped site" to resemble an airplane wing by the internationally renowned Walter Gropius, the 2.6-million-sf tower sparked debate for its bulky Internationalist design looming over historic 230 Park and position straddling the beloved landmark Terminal.

Forty years later, it has become a landmark in its own right. As the anchor of the Park Avenue corporate corridor, which developed rapidly following its arrival, the building has grown in stature and relevancy as it has been transformed from an American corporate headquarters, to a globally recognized address. Today the Met Life logo (consideration was once given to putting company mascot Snoopy atop the tower), is visible as far south as Soho and a mile into the sky. And like Exxon, it has successfully transitioned into a multi-tenant facility enjoying some of Manhattan's highest occupancy rates.

11 Madison Avenue/ Met Life Complex

Like many of its New York landmark brethren, the 50-story office tower at 23rd Street once held the title of tallest in the world, only to be taken away by the Woolworth Building in 1913. Modeled after the famed bell tower of Venice's Basilica di San Marco, its pyramidal crown became the company logo and was etched on the blue covers of millions if insurance plans across America. Just a few years after it was finished, Met Life--very much wanting to retake the tallest title--announced it would build a 100-story tower. But the Depression deepened and construction stopped at the 29th story; the presence of 30 elevators for as many floors, and a flat roofline, endure as testimony to the grandiose vision.

Now known as 11 Madison, it reinvented itself in the 1990s with a high tech overhaul making it one of New York's first buildings to wire for the Internet. Renovated, renewed and ready for the future, 11 Madison holds the distinctive honor of winning the Pinnacle Award in two categories--historic and operating, where it advanced to win at the Mid-Atlantic regional level.

399 Park Avenue

Long in the shadow of its famous sister building, the slope roofed, stilt-supported Citicorp (now Citigroup) Center, 399 Park, however, has a history of equal influence. Finished in 1961 as the US headquarters for First National City Bank, the tower launched a trend that transformed Park Avenue into America's leading address for banks--so much so that by the mid-80's more than 300 were headquartered there.

Vincent Astor began assembling the plot in the late 50's to rival Seagram and go one better, with a glass cube entrance, a glass-walled bridge suspended over the "moat" of a sunken plaza, and a roof-top helipad. But a local pharmacy held up the assemblage (54th Street was a residential block), financial difficulties ensued, and First National City Bank stepped in. Completed in 1961, the sheer faced tower marked the northern-most boundary of commercial development at the time. First National City also legitimized Midtown as a financial address in a pioneering relocation from the Financial District. Almost a half-century later the building that almost didn't happen was purchased by Boston Properties at a record-setting auction price.

Citigroup Center

In the 25 years that have passed since this magnificent design by Hugh Stubbins sparked the cleanup of a seedy stretch of 53rd Street and had New Yorkers looking at architecture differently, the building has only grown in stature. Many copied its anodized aluminum skin, but few had the deftness to set a 59-story tower on massive columns positioned at the center of each side, rather than the more obvious corners. The innovation allowed it to cantilever over the site's first occupant--St. Peter's, a 19-century church which found new life as part of the development deal in a stark, rock-shaped sanctuary design watched over by the tower above. The tower's balancing act made it the perfect candidate to be the first skyscraper in the nation to install a pendulum-like device to reduce wind sway.

And so, too daunting to duplicate, Citigroup's (Citicorp at the time) emblematic design stayed close to home as the bank flourished and became the world's largest. Not content with what was long considered one of the most successful public atriums in New York, the bank recently renovated its popular retail shops and created a new street presence. The combination of superb management, excellent facilities, and public amenities such as the sunken outdoor plaza, complete with waterfall and direct subway access, has kept the building fully-leased. Yet its stunning design is what keeps in front and center on the list of skyline icons. Ironically, the 45-degree slant that stands for Citigroup worldwide has become so much a part of the culture that few remember, or care, that the sloped crown was originally planned as a source for solar energy.

787 Seventh Avenue

Equitable Tower, as it was known when it opened in 1985, garnered many a headline--and the credit--for moving "Class A Midtown" west to Seventh Avenue. Just a few years before such an address had been unthinkable--today it has attracted some of Wall Street's finest names. But Equitable broke the boundaries and did so with exquisite grace, contracting with Edward Larabee Barnes to design one of the decade's finest corporate showcases, and bringing its commitment to art to Seventh. Roy Lichtenstein painted his massive mural on site in a de facto demonstration of artist-in-residence rarely seen in the Manhattan's office world, and a lobby-level gallery continues to bring exhibits of significance to the public several times a year.

Two decades after its debut, the 54-story tower serves a multi-tenant base with some of the finest amenities in Midtown, and does so at an award-winning level--this year both BOMA/NY and REBNY singled out its superb management team for industry honors.

51 West 52nd Street

Black Rock at Grand Central? Yes, in 1960 as CBS analyzed suitable locations, the site later taken by Pan Am was high on the list. But citing the need for a more prestigious location, the Tiffany Network chose Avenue of the Americas near Rockefeller Center, home of rival NBC, and picked the renowned Eero Saarinen to design the only skyscraper he would create in his award-winning career. He worked steadily on the drawings until his death in 1961, when colleagues Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo completed the 38-story tower, keeping the imposing black granite facade that gave the building its nickname. It continues to stand as one of New York's signature corporate towers, housing the executive facilities of CBS.

General Motors Building

For much of the 20th Century, New York's buildings set lofty records--highest purchase price, tallest building--if not in the world, then certainly the City. General Motors shattered the price barrier, commanding the highest sum for an office building when it sold in the 1980's for $500 million. It set the record again in 1998 when Trump and Conseco teamed up to purchase the 50-story tower, and once again set the bar this year in the largest per square foot sale of all time. And while General Motors itself is not the presence it was in 1968, when the automotive giant regularly displayed new car models on its plaza, the car showrooms have gone on to new life as the studio for the CBS Early Show, and FAO Schwartz has established its flagship store and an outdoor branding presence that includes one of the largest teddy bears on earth.

Grace Building

Pinnacle Award-Operating (1 million sf)

Often compared to 9 West 57th Street and sharing the same architect, Gordon Bunschaft of Lever House fame, (who preferred the Grace design and tried to get the 5th Street developers to use it first), the Grace Building is another prime example of a corporate giant leaving Downtown for Midtown. For years Grace held sway at the top floors of the 50-floor tower and enjoyed some of the best views in Midtown, including the green spaces of Bryant Park. The Swig real estate enterprise--a co-developer and now co-owner--fought vigorously to create the group that restored Bryant Park and turned a crime-ridden disgrace into an urban oasis featured in numerous television commercials for its pastoral qualities. The results were spectacular, increasing the value of the building by millions, as did its recent major capital improvements program.

Though Grace relocated South years ago, the building has been successfully transitioned into a multi-tenanted facility, and its high-tech operating systems and management keep tenancy at 99.9%; its spacious 25,000-sf plaza is the neighborhood concert venue all summer long. Today it is the New York flagship for co-owner and manager Trizec.

One Liberty Plaza

Pinnacle Award--Operating (over 1 million sf)

Forty-four days after the horror of 9/11, One Liberty Plaza was the first of the towers ringing Ground Zero to be back in operation. Though an optical illusion sparked rumors of collapse, the 54-story tower of black steel was not structurally compromised and reluctantly took a new position as being the tallest building in Downtown. It had been built in 1972 to such heights by then-owner US Steel on a site earlier occupied by The Singer Building, which had an even loftier title--tallest in the world, in itsheyday. Given the nature of its prime tenant, the tower was to be a showcase for steel technology and as a result, what appears as a sheer facade is actually a skin formed of 2-meter deep steel girders. It was the first such use of this technology at the time. Present owner Brookfield Properties, which also has ownership and controlling stake in the World Financial Center across Ground Zero, makes its headquarters at One Liberty, where it is joined by numerous financial community leaders.

383 Madison Avenue (Bear Stearns)

Pinnacle Award--New Construction

Soaring 47 stories above Madison Avenue, the Bear Stearns Global Headquarters is the first new office tower to grace its well-established Midtown neighborhood in decades. But the brilliant building that rose on this storied site was not the first proposed. Bear Stearns stepped in after two developers' plans fell short and now occupies more than half the building. As designed by Skidmore Owings & Merrill, the 1,000,000-sf building reflects the sensibilities of today's tenant needs, including an octagonal footprint that increases outer wall space for greater natural light, trading floors accommodating conventional and wireless networks, and a glass colonnade passageway for the public at the building base. Its 7-story crown is dramatically lit at night, and one of New York's newest corporate towers is already a local landmark.

The SONY Building

Just two years ago, SONY finally (and quietly) purchased the building, which has borne its name since it net leased the 36-story tower 12 years ago from AT&T, which ironically, was already removing personnel to New Jersey despite promises to maintain a major presence. Noon after, remodeling followed. The open colonnades--a swap for the vertical massing of the building--were closed over after an agreement for public amenities was reached, and the spaces became a retail experience of SONY products, incorporating the entrance to the futuristic SONY Wonder Technology Lab. AT&T moved the gigantic "Golden Boy" statue from the grand entrance to New Jersey, and the heated debate over Phillip Johnson's Chippendale roofline has subsided. But the building's full-blown expression of Post Modernism was widely copied, and SONY is the first Japanese company to have a New York building named for it.

Preceding SONY and just one block north on Madison is the 43-story polished green granite Modernist tower completed in the early 80's for IBM. Sleek and prismatic, it too houses public spaces at its base, in this case, The Garden Plaza which no longer houses the once-popular garden and cafe, but does offer a huge granite sculpture seemingly floating on air in a stainless steel tank.

60 Wall Street

Visible throughout lower Manhattan for its 55-story height, 60 Wall Street's profile was heightened by association with two leading lights--the architectural firm of Roche Dinkeloo, and one of America's oldest names in finance-Morgan. Built in 1989 as the headquarters for Morgan Bank, the tower contributed one of the most memorable Downtown rooflines in recent years--a stepped pyramid that hearkens back to such New York greats as neighboring 40 Wall and the original Bankers Trust Building at 14 Wall, which used the crown as logo for years. A reinvigorated expression of nee-Classicism encompassing all the necessary state-of-the-art security and engineering features required today, the building also takes care of the public, featuring a vast arcade for gracious cafe style seating, surrounded by columns supporting a gold- toned mosaic ceiling. The blend of times past and current technology undoubtedly contributed to its acquisition by Deutsche Bank in 2001.

Renovated Wonders

Renovations like those undertaken at 1251 Avenue of the Americas have become a necessity as the building stock from the 50s, 60s and 70s, continues to age and technology races forward. Three award-winners stand out for their impact on the market and the scope of their accomplishment.

One New York Plaza

Pinnacle and TOBY A ward--Renovated

Water figures prominently in the story of One New York Plaza--it won notice for bringing the Downtown office market to the southernmost tip of Manhattan when it was completed in 1970, and today it continues to use river water in a unique recycling program. But in the early 90s when then-owner Chase decided to upgrade this massive structure--its 2.5 million sf are contained on only 40 floors--the renovation was strictly building-focused. The multi-year effort completely redesigned the lobby, elevators and cabs, all mechanical, power and safety systems, and only then turned outside to re-do its spacious plaza in a waterfront motif. The facade's distinctive honeycomb pattern was resurfaced and the entire building topped with a new roof.

1166 Avenue of the Americas

Pinnacle and TOBY Award--Renovated

1166 entered the market as a speculative tower in 1973, just as the Arab oil embargo and recession gripped the nation and squeezed Manhattan real estate to its most painful point in years. Leasing the tower proved so tough it found itself at one point the source of a scathing magazine article touting it as a money-draining failure. The black tower was the Avenue's, if not Midtown's biggest white elephant until the market broke open again in the late 70's and innovative thinking converted it into New York's first office condo with AT&T owning the upper half the building and the lower half successfully leasing to firms like International Paper. In the late 90s extensive renovations began, from complete a complete overhaul of all building and security internal to a tastefully landscaped pocket park behind the tower that were noteworthy in concept and execution.

320 Park-Mutual of America Building

Pinnacle Award--Operating (500,000-1,000,000 sf)

A renovation so extensive sidewalk superintendents thought it was new construction, the new Swanke Hayden Connell design for 320 Park Avenue at 51st Street morphed a boxlike, nondescript office building into a showcase for its investment owner, Mutual of America. The completely new Post Modernist exterior, complete with multiple setbacks and a sensational stepped crown culminating in the American flag, was carried through inside with a lobby clad in polished marble, and finished with elegant wood elevator lobbies and cabs. It integrated the most sophisticated building and security systems possible at the time and maintains its rejuvenated image by constantly striving to maintain the building at peak performance. By so dramatically altering its section of Park Avenue, it brought a much-needed sense of design back to this quintessential corporate corridor.

The Wired Generation

The 90's roared into business with the promise of Times Square fulfilled, proving that corporate life--indeed, Wall Street--can flourish amid flashing lights without turning into a Vegas nightmare. And by the end of the decade, another down-at-heels location, the Coliseum site in Columbus Circle, would start construction on a $1.6 billion megahit for media giant Time Warner. Unlike New York's other great urban developments, the architectural spirit in Times Square was adamantly individualistic, but all incorporated the required new interpretations of the essence of those few fabled blocks--lights, action and energy.

1540 Broadway

Pinnacle and TOBY Award--Corporate Facility

1540 Broadway kicked off the decade with its completion in 1990 and was snapped up just two years later by the world's largest publishing company--Bertelsmann, which selected the soaring nee-modernist tower as its US headquarters. Forty-five stories of patterned blue glass, gridwork and dramatic angles culminate in a triangular "beak" 600 feet above Seventh Avenue, while tenants pass through a lavishly decorated lobby of marble, granite, green glass and steel.

With its unusual angles and spare lines, the tower generated excitement from the first in architectural circles. It also became a favorite of the public, who were accorded their own massive, semi-circular entrance to the three retail levels anchored by Virgin's Megastore, a worldwide must-see for teenage tourists. Its galvanizing effect on the neighborhood, impressive design by David Childs of Skidmore Owings & Merrill, and top drawer management brought the tower--which was the skyline star of the Millennium celebrations--the top honors in its field.

1585 Broadway

Pinnacle Award--Corporate Facility

Wall Street took notice in the late 80's when the venerable Morgan Stanley executed a sophisticated buyout of a troubled Times Square development, and then broke ranks in 1990 to not only lease offices there, but retain ownership and relocate its entire global headquarters. It was the first of the Wall Street lions to head north and west in such a dramatic way, and it teamed up with veteran developer Hines to oversee construction and asset management. The 1.2-million-sf tower paired design architects Gwathmey Siegel and Associates with New York's yeoman architects, Emery Roth & Sons, to create a tower of horizontal striping that meets the sky in a cut-off pyramidal shape also seen at Morgan's 60 Wall. The base keeps faith with the Times Square signage zoning requirements, which provide electronic market tickers and in no small way reinforce the highly successful, Internet-driven metamorphosis of this Wall Street traditionalist.

4 Times Square

Pinnacle Award--New Construction

This was the centerpiece site of the Master Plan prepared by the 42nd Street Development Corporation; the 1999 completion of the 47-story tower at the 42nd Street gateway marked the end of decades of waiting for the dream to take hold.

It also heralded the entry of another publishing giant--Conde Nast--into the new Times Square, yet its requisite signage bows to its financial neighbors, housing a curved NASDAQ ticker, and the glass-walled NASADQ MarketSite TV Studio on the street level. The signage aptly illustrates the building's dual orientation: the side facing Times Square is all theater, the other, all business. Fox & Fowle's Deconstructivist design accomplished this by marrying traditional granite and curtainwall rectangular forms with rounded corners, and a high-tech crown with four protruding frameworks--one for each direction- that house 50-foot-square LED screens operating 2417. And, due to the building's extraordinary energy saving measures, they do so using 90% less energy than conventional skyline marquees.

The Reuters Building at 3 Times Square

Pinnacle Award. New Construction

Writing its own headline for environmentally sensitive engineering and the entree of Rudin Management Co. into Times Square, this 855,000-sf building opened at 42nd and Seventh in Spring 2001 as the stateside headquarters of global news organization, Reuters.

Fox and Fowle's first design for Times Square, its 30-story facade is characterized by its unique stone, glass curtainwall and metal panel design blending style with energy efficiency; it blocks most heat energy while admitting natural light. Its crowning spire serves as a communication antenna and to fulfill its signage responsibility, it responded with a brilliant combination of multiple high-tech screen media displays. Tenants beyond Reuters also responded in force and include the Bank of Montreal and JP Morgan Chase

5 Times Square

Pinnacle Award--New Construction

With Boston Properties' 5 Times Square joining its fellow numbered towers in Times Square in 2002, the new emphasis on finance and neo-Modernism continued in New York's most exciting new office district.

The 1.1-million square foot skyscraper by renowned architects Kohn Pedersen Fox, employs a striking diagonal element, or sloping fin as part of the facade, while at its base, it incorporates 37,000 sf of retail and 15,000 sf of glittering signage, catering to the 31 million who pass through the crossroads of the world. Emblazoned on its crown is the neon logo of accounting behemoth Ernst & Young, who relocated is national headquarters there in a move that further solidified Times Square's financial credentials.

745 Seventh Avenue

Pinnacle Nominee--Corporate Facility

Bridging Rockefeller Center and Times Square is a tower once planned for Morgan on a site once called Rockefeller Center West. It is the global headquarters of another Wall Street powerhouse, Lehman Brothers, who began relocating from Downtown in 2002. Yet the building has its roots in a tradition nearly a century old, for 745 is an extension of the famed Rockefeller Center complex and when completed in late 2001, the 1.1-million-square-foot skyscraper made history of its own--it was the first expansion of the renowned urban landmark in 40 years. Built on the western part of the block occupied by 1251 Avenue of the Americas, its proximity to Broadway and Times Square allowed architects Kohn Pederson Fox to advance a new interpretation of the Rockefeller Center tradition in a tower that has also been honored for its construction merits. Yet for all its state-of-the-art design, security and engineering features, it is the fluid colors and dramatic landscape scenes undulating across the 5-story high, building-wide signage that deliver a show-stopping performance.

Time Warner Center

Pinnacle Award-Vision for New York/ Henry Muller Award

In a town that has seen everything, New York had seen nothing like The Time Warner Center when it opened at 10 Columbus Circle earlier this year. It found its way into gossip columns--celebs buying multi-million dollar condos ... secretly--and business columns, as the name changed to Time Warner Center due to an internal shakeup. In real estate circles, it was nothing but good news and a stupendous solution to a site whose solution had taken far to long to reach.

Developed by The Related Companies and Apollo Real Estate Advisors, with Time Warner owning and occupying one-third of the mixed-use complex, this $1.6 billion blockbuster houses 2.8 million-sf in twinned towers (which took their cues form the residential buildings of Central Park West); a five-star Mandarin Oriental hotel; lavish condominiums with asking prices starting in the millions; a ballroom overlooking Central Park, more than 40 luxury shops on a 7-level retail and an entertainment complex that also includes studio and performance space for Jazz @ Lincoln Center.

Beneath all the luxury and swank is a creation by David Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill where orientation rules--the two towers are massed at the rear of the complex and set atop a stone and glass "podium", a low-rise structure that preserves a pedestrian-level feeling while directing their gaze upward.

This most recent addition to the skyline also reflects today's sensibilities. Not without fire and other accidents while it was being built, it has brought together communications technology and life safety necessity; the tower is specially wired so that police and firefighters can communicate in an emergency. And on a lighter note, yes, cell phones work anywhere, even inside the elevators.


We pay tribute here to the buildings that define this City, its business strength and even, to an important degree ourselves. New Yorkers are notorious for their undisputed belief that no skyline is their hometown's equal; indeed it is hard to picture otherwise. And even thought some may have celebrated their 50th birthday years ago, they remain the pride of New York. Each has also planned its future, renewing itself with capital projects--testimony to one of the most enduring qualities of Manhattan real estate: it constantly reinvents itself to be the best in the world.

The Chrysler Building

Pinnacle and TOBY Award--Historic Building

New Yorkers have been known to square off into two camps, those who prefer Chrysler and those who favor Empire. It was not the first of the competitions between the two.

Chrysler won the first round--it was the tallest building in the world at 77 stories (beating the Eiffel Tower) until Empire took the honors just months later. For many, this last of the great Art Deco buildings is still the world's most beautiful skyscraper; that was certainly in the front of Walter Chrysler's mind, who bought architect William Van Alen's plans from William H. Reynolds, a state senator whose only real estate experience had been Coney Island's "Dreamland".

The automotive magnate wanted more than a provocative skyscraper however; he wanted a skyline star. The crown, in fact became shrouded in such drama that it was left off the building until the very last minute when it was hoisted to the roof, appearing as if from thin air, and put firmly in place in 90 minutes.

Drama, in fact, was cast in the design; the steel facade is filled with radiator cap gargoyles, a band of automotive hardware, soaring eagles and other symbols of Chrysler's late 20's belief that the car was the coming thing. Unfortunately, these exotic additions are not visible from the street level and even today, passersby have no idea of the architectural treasure trove above. The dramatics continue inside with detailing still unmatched, an eclectic blend of African marble, precious wood marquetry and stainless steel. By the 70's the tower had changed hands several times and was not the trophy it once had been, but a massive $100 million renovation encompassing tasks as diverse as restoring the lobby's Turnbull mural to installing new state-of-the-art internal building systems, and current owner Tishman Speyer continues to invest whenever necessary.

Still the darling of many a cinematographer's sweeping panoramas, the aura surrounding the tower continues. As to the debate, who can argue with what one reporter wrote: it "exhilarates when you view it from a distance. In the 1980's, the triangular windows [in the crown] were illuminated at night, making it New York's answer to a rocket liftoff at Cape Kennedy."

The Empire State Building

Pinnacle and TOBY Award--Operating (over 1 million sf)/Historic

The great dowager queen of Manhattan, the Empire State Building, towered over the cityscape like Oz when in was completed in a civic display of triumph over the Great Depression. Early photos show its total and awe-inspiring predominance; it was legendary from the start.

Completed in a record 18 months by a workforce desperate for work, it was built in the Depression's darkest hour to be the tallest structure on earth, and gloriously held that title for a generation until the Twin Towers staked its claim. At 2.25 million sf, it houses 1,000 businesses, has been renovated to provide the most modern of office requirements, has its own zip code, a 5-story high Art Deco masterpiece of a lobby and has come to be regarded as one of the most graceful of all towers; artistry of line and numerous setbacks offsetting the optical distortion of its 102-story height.

A record-breaker in its own right, it houses the Guinness Hall of Records and is regularly seen by 17 million visitors a year. It helped make Harry Helmsley a real estate legend as his company took on ownership and management responsibilities--it is still one of the most sought after prizes in the world. Whether on paper or the silver screen, where it has been a romantic supporting player more than a dozen times, it is still the flagship of the Empire State and the modern structure that has most held our imaginations captive.

Lever House

Forerunner to Seagram, with the esthetics of high Modernism, Lever House dared to do what no other building in Manhattan has accomplished so spectacularly; it sacrificed profits and turned proportion upside down for beauty and urban values. Architect Gordon Bunschaft arranged its two rectangular planes in counter position; the thin tower with its narrowest side over Park Avenue, its broader expanse turned inward, eschewing the streetwall and creating an airy expanse instead. True to modernist principles of freestanding and weightless attributes, the base gives the appearance of floating and supports a roof garden and enclosed garden atrium retreat.

It was built for the house products giant in 1952 as the first of the modern skyscrapers on this elegant and predominately residential boulevard. Though it was considered small by Manhattan standards--only 20 stories high--its use of a green glass and stainless steel curtainwall had a mammoth impact--architectural historians credit it as Americas curtainwall prototype.

30 Rockefeller Plaza

With the 1933 opening of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the keystone building of the world's first "Skyscraper City" was born. Its 70 stories of dramatic slab architecture, combined with a tapering height, modern floor plans, and rooftop gardens, made the tower a touchstone for art, architecture and commerce.

The exterior's grand scale is reflected in the lobby, which has grown in importance as a repository of Machine Age art. Its lofty spaces and black marble and bronze detailing serve as the backdrop for the building's outstanding mural collection and reflect the generations old Rockefeller dedication to art for all to enjoy. Thirty preeminent muralists, artists and sculptors were commissioned to create over 100 works dedicated to the working man and themes of progress, time, communications and brotherhood. It was welcome work during the Depression and no other New York building since has created such an opportunity for the art community.

The building setting is a work of art as well. Rising over one of the modern world's renowned plazas, the building creates a backdrop for the iconic Christmas tree, world famous skating rink, sculpture of Prometheus and Channel Gardens. At night, with its entire height is bathed in white light, it the stunning centerpiece of the urban complex that started it all.

Seagram Building

For 70 years, Mies van der Rohe searched ceaselessly within himself for "it"--the perfect building, exemplifying all the virtues of form and function wrapped in the artistry of the soaring simplicity; a building whose perfection of line was definitive enough to be known simply as, The Building. He felt he reached it at the Seagram Building, which acquired added luster as the years passed, so much so that within days of turning 50--the first year of landmark eligibility--the National Register of Historic Places rushed it through the process. Architecture students worship the illusory depths of its plaza and the New York Times was so enamored of the work that it lengthened its name to "The Building of the Millennium", drawing centuries-long comparisons to Gothic structures.

Real estate knows it as 375 Park, a building built by a genius that commands some of the highest rents in the city, and often the first choice of international firms seeking a prestigious foothold in America.

But its deserved mystique evolved from its monumental contribution to the physical landscape of Park Avenue and to office buildings designed from the 1960's on. The Building executed so masterfully by Mies in his only New York work fathered the International School of Design, which was then widely imitated, albeit poorly. Its daring use of a sweeping plaza--large enough to support a tower on its own and considered an indulgent waste of precious space by some--complete with reflecting pools opened up Park Avenue, making it New York's great commercial boulevard, and spawned imitations up and down Sixth Avenue.

Built of nothing but the finest materials it set a luxurious standard that gave 375 Park top of the class honors and became the first "designer label" building. Every era has reflected its highest aspirations through its architecture. Seagram did the same, ushering in the era of the commercial building as today's monuments.

The Woolworth Building

Pinnacle Award-Historic Building

"The cathedral of commerce" was designed by legendary Cass Gilbert to be tallest in the world, a favorite theme of New York builders. In the case of this 792-foot skyscraper, the handwriting of its driving force--F. W. Woolworth--was writ large. Just three years before its completion in 1913, the 58-story Gothic-inspired tower was 13 stories shorter. Then, Woolworth began acquiring lots surrounding the Broadway-Park Place site, and the building grew to an entire block front. After foundation work began, Woolworth again stepped in, deciding its height of 750 feet--which fit the bill as the world's tallest--was still not good enough. More caissons were sunk and plans were revised. Ironically, the height of each floor is so large that by today's standards, the building would be 79 or 80 conventional stories.

Extensive restoration has brought back to life the interior's clearly Gothic inspirations, ranging from the cruciform-shaped floor to the glass mosaic ceiling laid in Early Christian/Byzantine style. In contrast, its building systems were modern marvels-elevators that traveled up to 700 feet per minute were among the numerous innovations required by its enormous height.

All of the dreaming, planning, and engineering breakthroughs came together on April 24, 1913 in a "ribbon cutting" today's owners can only fantasize about--President

Woodrow Wilson pressed a button in the White House and lights flashed on to illuminate the building's breathtaking terra cotta facade. Ironically, this masterpiece was the last of the major Gothic towers, but today it thrives as both a modern office tower and National Landmark. Most of all, it will always be cherished for putting New York on the map a century ago as home to the world's finest, an occasionally the tallest, buildings.

The World Trade Center--One and Two

Pinnacle and TOBY Award--Operating Building (over 1 million sf)

The twin towers stood for 35 years among us--to many their entire lifetime--and they were always front and center in every cityscape, growing in stature to symbolize the economic engines of New York, and contributing mightily to the City's standing as the financial capital of the world. It was also the reason why they were taken away from us. While their end is all too familiar, their beginning is not..

It was that lofty a goal that gave birth to the idea of two towers. New York veteran Emery Roth & Sons was asked to collaborate with an extraordinary design architect, Minoru Yamasaki. Graduating in 1934 from the University of Washington, architectural work was virtually non-existent, and so he came to New York searching for a job. He began to make his name with "sensuous, tensile-like structures" and so impressed the Trade Center authorities that he was selected over a dozen other architects competing for the honor.

Yamasaki's perspective was uniquely American. As opposed to European designers who created to serve, he believed buildings must show strength and power on their own; a "monument to the virility of our society ... our ability to find greatness" he wrote. He also turned design and engineering on its head, thinking nothing was too sacred to be re-examined, believing technology to be the real challenge and that solutions evolving from project as vast as the towers would soon become stock building items.

The $500 million design program called for housing every enterprise connected with world trade on 12 million sf of floor area on a 16-acre site, which also had to accommodate the Path and subways. It took form in the two identical towers rising 110 stories into the sky, while at the column-like base, gothic gracefulness sweeps the eye upward. To heighten the sense of scale, Yamasaki insisted on open-air plaza from which to view the almost surreal heights. The towers supplanted Empire as tallest building in the world when construction was completed on Tower One in 1970. Just a few years later it lost the title to Sears Tower during a period when skyscraper building became a competitive sport.

Yamasaki was roundly criticized for losing his delicate touch and building boxy monoliths, but he continued to practice successfully across the world until his death in 1986. The public, however, took the towers to heart, where they remain today.

The building honored in this section were selected by the Building Owners and Managers Association of New York. Special thanks to Peter Loppacher, Richard Duffy and Cheryl Mitchell for providing all photography.
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Title Annotation:New york's best skyscapers
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 20, 2005
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