(The SBC Warburg Dillon Read Inc. Building)
Northeast corner at 54th Street
Developer: Park Tower Realty
Architect: Edward Larrabee Barnes
Date Completed: 1982
View from the southwest
By Carter B. Horsley
Hard on the heels of his success in designing the IBM
Building two blocks to the north on Madison Avenue, Edward Larrabee
Barnes got another chance to play with angled facades and cut-away
bases with this silvery tower.
Here, the results are neither as spectacular
nor as luxurious, but considering that the site is much smaller
and that it was a speculative rather than "institutional"
project they are still impressive.
The facade treatment, as shown at the left,
was obviously derived from Citicorp Center just two blocks to
the east and while it can hardly be said to be contextual it was
not a bad choice since such a treatment is quite elegant and the
Madison Avenue ambiance in this neighborhood was neither consistent
Indeed, this intersection is now one of the
more interesting ones in midtown as directly across from this
tower is the zig-zaggy tower at 527 Madison Avenue (see The
City Review article) and catty-corner to this is the sharply
sloped base of the large office tower at 520 Madison Avenue (see
The City Review article). Directly opposite
this tower on the avenue is a bunch of undistinguished, older,
The developer, Park Tower Realty, headed by
George Klein, was, at the time, one of the most active commercial
builders and was noted for commissioning different "name"
architects for its projects: I. M. Pei for its black building
at 499 Park Avenue (see The City Review
article), Helmut Jahn for its slanted midtown tower nearby
at Park Avenue Tower, and Philip Johnson for its crenellated tower
at Federal Reserve Plaza downtown. Until his IBM tower (see The City Review article), Barnes, who also
designed the Asia Society Building on Park Avenue at 70th Street,
was not in the top ranks of celebrity architects.
His solution for this 36-story, 440,000-sq.
ft. building was to create a mid-block plaza whose size is enlarged
by cutting away, at an angle, a large portion of the base of the
tower. The plaza has a waterfall and trees and opposite the angled
entrance to the building, whose large and handsome lobby is glass-enclosed.
Unlike the IBM Building, however, whose cut-away corner and main
entrance is completely opened beneath the cantilevered tower,
the cut-away corner here has a tall, but slender column that supports
that corner of the tower. (The cost of the IBM cantilever was
considerable, about $10 million at the time of its construction.)
The column here makes the cut-away less dramatic, but is not too
obtrusive. The midblock plaza is not bad although it does open
up views of the backs of some neighboring buildings that are not
ideal. The popularity, in the press, at least, of nearby Paley
Park, led to a proliferation of mid-block plazas in midtown and
they do make a fair bit of sense as they permit towers to maintain
building walls on the avenue, which is urbanistically good, while
also opening up congested midtown and providing places for seating,
cogitating and eating.
The asymmetry of the building is good and the
angled, cut-away top that faces southwest not only provides tenants
there unusual and spectacular views but also serves as a prow
that provides dynamic interest to the skyline.
The detailing here is crisp and clean and the
building has always had high-end tenants in its avenue retail
For its modest size by Midtown standards, this
is a fine, cool, little tower.