History of Innovation

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1958: Seagram Building – New York City, New York

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Image Sources: 1, 2, 3

Innovation: Seagram Building
Location: New York City, New York
Year: 1958
Architect: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Philip Johnson
Structural Engineer: Severud Associates

As an example of functionalism and modernism, the Seagram Building has been very influential on American architecture. Mies van der Rohe loved the aesthetic of exposed structural elements and utilized them as external decoration on this building[1]. However, these exposed vertical I-beams aren’t actually structural. The structural steel frame had to be encased inside concrete in order to meet building codes, so Mies added decorative bronze-cladding to an additional set of steel beams on the surface to mirror the inside structure. These beams were welded to the tinted glass curtain wall, markedly the first true curtain wall, providing floor to ceiling lighting and establishing a view of the expansive granite plaza in front of the building[2].

This building set the standard for skyscrapers in America. At 38 floors, it was the first tall building to use high strength bolted connections, vertical truss wind bracing system, and it was the first to employ a composite steel and concrete lateral frame. Upon completion, the Seagram building became the most expensive skyscraper per square foot at that time[1].

More about Seagram design
More about vertical truss system


Written by Emily Lamon

October 8, 1958 at 3:09 pm

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