(between 50th and 51st Streets)
(formerly the Look Building)
Developer: Percy &
Harold D. Uris
Architect: Emery Roth &
By Carter B.
This 23-story office building,
was one of the first major midtown projects of the Uris family
that went on to become one of the most dominant and prolific commercial
developers in Manhattan after World War II and the bulk of its
portfolio, not including this property, eventually was acquired
by Olympia & York.
Often depicted as a definitive
example of the
"wedding-cake" zoning envelope then current in midtown,
the building is probably the most attractive, though relatively
modest, building built by the Urises and is also probably the
most attractive white-brick building in the city, which suffers
from a surfeit of utterly tasteless and design-less white-brick
"monstrosities," mostly residential towers, that were
the fashion in the 1950's and 1960's.
What, of course, makes this
is its simplicity and its rounded corners that suggest the sleekness
of the upper decks of an oceanliner without any Deconstructivist
distractions. The banded fenestration, here seen to its best advantage,
has the psychological effect of communality of interest rather
than peepholes from a disparate rabbit warren of offices. It also
is a very natural and very strong design statement.
The proportions here are quite
good as the
building is small and squat enough not to let the horizontal window
patterns get dizzyingly off kilter. The 50th Street frontage is
about twice as long as that on 51st Street.
Look Magazine, its initial
major tenant, was
a very popular competitor of Life Magazine and this prime location
helped bolster its image, although it ultimately folded. Another
major tenant, Esquire Magazine, unsuccessfully sued to change
the name of the building.
The Urises were one of seven
families that built most of midtown's new buildings in the first
three decades after World War II. The other families were the
Tishmans, the Fishers, the Minskoffs, the Kaufmans, the Rudins
and the Dursts.
The building, which overlooks
the rear of St.
Patrick's Cathedral, is on the former site of Cathedral College.
On July 27, 2010, the Landmarks Preservation
Commission today unanimously approved landmark status for the Look
Building, a curved, multi-tiered, mid-20th century Modernist office
tower in Midtown Manhattan.
“The Look Building helped establish European
Modernism as a fashionable, though practical, approach for office
towers that were constructed in Manhattan’s business districts after
the Second World War,” said Commission Chairman Robert B.
Tierney.Commission has made it a point in recent years to protect those
buildings that showcase the indelible imprint Modernism has left on New
York City’s streetscapes.”
Emery Roth & Sons, established in 1938,
became one of New York City’s most prolific architecture firms during
the mid-to-late 20th century. It was involved in the design of at least
150 structures, including such high-profile projects as the Pan Am (now
Met Life) Building, the World Trade Center and the Citicorp Building.
The Look Building was developed by Uris Brothers,
a leading office construction firm whose projects had a substantial
impact on Manhattan’s skyline and streetscapes during the mid-to-late
20th century. The New York Hilton, the Uris Building at 1633 Broadway
and 55 Water Street are among the colossal structures that resulted
from their financial backing.
Featuring tightly rounded corners, multiple
setbacks and bands of ribbon-like windows that alternate with white
brick spandrels, the Look Building has a strong horizontal emphasis
that suggests the influence of the c. 1931 Starrett-Lehigh Building - a
designated New York City landmark at 601-625 West 26th St. - and the
circa 1947 Universal Pictures building, at 447 Park Ave.
Other prominent tenants in the building
included music publisher Witmark & Sons, which had a
studio on the fifth floor where a young Bob Dylan produced a series of
demo recordings in 1962 and 1963.
The building was sold to the Metropolitan Life
Insurance Company in 1953, and has been owned since the 1970s by the
Feil Organization and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur
Foundation. The building’s two-story retail base was remodeled in the
1980s, and the rest of its exterior was renovated between 1995 and 1998.