737 Fifth Avenue
Northeast corner at 56th Street
Developer: Donald Trump
Architect: Swanke, Hayden & Connell (Der Scutt, design partner
View from the south
This 68-story tower is Donald Trump's signature building and while it is big and brassy it is also surprisingly subdued.
One of the city's premier mixed-use buildings, it has fine detailing and is notable for its thin profiled and stepped massing.
By New York standards, it
is spectacular and epitomizes many popular visions of successful
Trump Tower, left, and 712 Fifth Avenue, right
Its "sawtooth" plan makes
the 644-foot-high tower appear even thinner and creates more
corner windows that are more salable although during construction some
apartment layouts had to be changed when it was discovered some corner
bedrooms "looked" into other apartments' bedrooms.
The unusual layout also
demonstrated that flat-roof buildings are not necessarily ugly even
in a Post-Modern age as from many pedestrian vantage points, the
tower's top is zigzag.
Trump Tower from across the avenue
Holiday lighting of base of building
Holiday carol singers
The waterfall was in front
of rose, peach, pink and orange Breccia Perniche marble.
The stepping effect of the
tower is thematically continued with the lobby atrium's seven-story waterfall beneath the large, angled skylight.
Much of the brightly-lit,
100-foot-high, atrium is lined with mirrors creating visual havoc for the hordes of tourists who ride the criss-crossed
escalators to the upper and lower retail floors.
are very handsome outdoor terraces at the top level of the atrium that overlook the great atrium
of the former IBM Building on the eastern half of the block and
adjoining the Nike Store that replaced the former Galleries
Lafayette store that replaced the former Bonwit Teller Store that
had relocated to that location after its Fifth Avenue building
had been demolished by replaced by Trump Tower.
Bonwit's, for decades one
of the city's most elegant department stores, relocated to a handsome,
new, small, polished red granite building wedged between Tiffany's
and the former IBM Building to the east on 57th Street and connected
to Trump Tower at several levels in the tower's atrium.
not. however, survive the relocation for long, however, and was
replaced by Galleries Lafayette, which kept the very elegant
facade on 57th Street, but which, in turn, succumbed to the vagaries
of New York retail competition.
In 1996, this small, structure,
was replaced by a new retail building for Nike that resembles
a large high school building on the outside.
Trump's demolition of the
modest, but very attractive Art Deco box of the former Bonwit
Teller Building on Fifth Avenue designed by Warren & Wetmore
in 1929 and remodeled the next year by Ely Jacques Kahn was done before a protest could be effectively waged to preserve
from Trump's jackhammers some very good-looking 15-foot-high,
Art Deco bas-reliefs on the facade that had been promised to the
Metropolitan Museum of Art along with decorative ironwork above
the store's entrance.
The large, polished bronze
frame outlining the lobby entrance of Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue
clearly pronounces the tone of the interior, but it also reminds
some older New Yorkers of the large and wonderful Art Deco medallions
that were lost but should have been incorporated into the new
design, perhaps inside the lobby.
The former Bonwit Teller
building on Fifth Avenue nicely complimented the adjoining Tiffany
Building before Tiffany's chairman, Walter Hoving, made an uninspired
four-story addition to it.
In contrast, nothing about Trump Tower
We may rightly lament the
passing of Bonwit Teller and the other great bastions of retail
elegance such as DePinna and Best & Company that have disappeared
from Fifth Avenue. Once the great Savoy Plaza Hotel was demolished
to make way for the General Motors Building and once Sheldon Solow
built his sloping skyscraper at 9 West 57th Street, the low-rise,
turn-of-the-century and Jazz Age-ambiance of this part of town
was transformed into a melange of the old and the new.
Without Trump Tower, however,
the nearby former IBM Building and the Sony Building across the
street, might not have been developed.
The "Plaza" office
district is now the city's best and most desirable and that can
be largely attributed to this project.
Trump Tower, which was completed
in 1983, and the former IBM tower in fact present a superb modern
ensemble on this block, especially as they are diagonally positioned
from each other.
It is too bad that Trump did not use his public relations talents to dissuade IBM from closing its wonderful
"gallery" that played host to many important art exhibitions,
as well as providing yet another amenity for Trump Tower residents,
in its short life.
Tower's public Fifth Avenue Tower lobby's polished, regally rosy
granite walls and floors and polished brass vitrines and "T"-shaped
stanchions are lavishly bright and amusing and manage to just
miss being outlandish. The "T" logo of the stanchions
and vitrines is different from the inlaid Trump Tower seal on
the slight ramp of the wide Fifth Avenue entrance. The inconsistency
of the logo styles is not as puzzling as why immodest Trump chose
not to employ them more often, such as in the skylight over the
Lobby floor seal
The ramp in the lobby is
an excellent alternative to steps and enhances the notion of descending
entrance and ascending exit. The office elevators are located
in this lobby, but the residential condominium apartments have
their own, separate, more sedate entrance on 56th Street.
The concept of an inner-city,
vertical shopping mall has had rough going since the initial success
of WaterTower Place in Chicago. This is one of the world's finest
and most expensive retail locations and since it was built many other
landlords have opted for larger, two-level retail spaces.
Public restrooms are in
short supply in midtown and where they have been included, often
mandated by zoning laws, they are often secluded to discourage
use. At Trump Tower they are tucked away on the lower level of the atrium
down the south corridor, but they are worth the trip for the angled
marble entrance is one of the best designs in this project.
Entrance to public restrooms on lower level
The project's glitz is muted
by its impressive monumentality. Fifth Avenue's legendary limestone
detailing had long before been blunted/bashed/interrupted by Olympic
Tower several blocks to the south and the high-rise quality of
Trump Tower is perhaps the best in
the plans of Alfred Taubman and Edwin Minskoff to erect a tall
tower at 712 Fifth Avenue across from his tower, presumably because
it might interfere with some midtown views in many apartments.
The other tower got built anyway and is one of the city's best
and Trump Tower has hardly suffered as most of its apartments
have stunning vistas, and prices. Trump maintains his office here
as well as occupying the penthouse opulently designed by Angelo
In 1985, Gwathmey Siegel & Associates designed an
apartment in the tower for Steven Spielberg, the film director.
In 1998, the Fifth Avenue
facade above the entrance was altered to accommodate a two-story-high
sign for "Avon". The sign has gray letters against a
cream background and is behind clear, not bronze glass windows.
The Avon name actually became more prominent than the Trump name in bronze
just above the entrance. Was Donald asleep in his quite rococco,
palatial lair in the tower, or on vacation?
The Avon sign detracted
from the building's ambiance and architectural design. It was
not unelegant, just strange. After all, what is Avon compared
to Trump, at least in New York?
In September, 2000, Mr.
Trump took out some full-page advertisements announcing that he
would be happy to emblazon the name of a retailer in a large brassy
sign just beneath the first setback of Trump Tower at the corner
of Fifth Avenue and 56th Street. Was one to interpret this as
a a new age of Trump modesty in which he lets others have almost
equal billing? Was this a sign that Time Squaritis and billboarding
is spreading and contagious and that all buildings will be emblazoning
with billboards of one type or another? Was Trump running short
Whatever the answer, both
the Avon sign and any new "sign," brass or not, was not
in keeping with the building's quite fine design and Donald should have
left well enough alone. This is not a question of context, but
taste and it is all the more strange because Trump is doing it
In early 2004, Asprey reopened
its corner store in the tower with a redesigned storefront, designed
by Sir Norman Foster. It was very elegant, very white and very
bright, in keeping with recent trends towards multi-floor retail
spaces along the avenue. It had little to do with the bronze Trump
Tower but was impressive enough not to despoil it.
Unfortunately, it did not
last long and in 2007 Asprey had located uptown on Madison Avenue
and its space was leased to Gucci, which replaced Foster's bright
window treatments with one that was ribbed and translucent in
Trump Tower, which has 12
floors of offices and 40 floors of apartments and a Floor-to-Area
(FAR) ratio of 21, is triumphant because of its location, its
views, its architecture, and its flair.
Swanke Hayden Connell was
the architectural firm and Der Scutt the lead designer.
An early design by Scutt
for the tower had three exterior glass elevators but it was rejected
because it required the sacrifice of too much saleable interior
space, Robert A. M. Stern, David Fishman and Jacob Tilove, observed
in their magnificent book, "New York 2000, Architecture and
Urbanism Between the Bicentennial and the Millennium," (The
Monacelli Press, 2006)
Equitable Life Assurance Society of The United States was the