de Blois, Natalie

Pepsi-Cola Corporation World Headquarters

Added by intern_test, last update: November 14, 2011, 7:30 pm

Pepsi-Cola Corporation World Headquarters
View of southwest corner, source: Maurizio Mucciola, www.flickr.com/photos/maurizio_mwg/2327007328/ , date: July, 2007
Location
500 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10022
United States
40° 45' 47.7144" N, 73° 58' 13.908" W
Identity of Building / Site
Primary classification: Commercial (COM)
Secondary classification:
Federal, State, or Local Designation(s) and Date(s):

New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission: June 20, 1995

History of Building/Site
Original Brief:

When Alfred N. Steele left Coca-Cola Company to become the Board Chairman and chief executive officer of Pepsi-Cola, sales grew fast. The company decided to build an office building, not only to be its World Headquarter, but to be its asset. Robert W. Cutler, a SOM architect who knew Alfred Steele, successfully obtained the commission of designing the Pepsi-Cola World Headquarters office building. (Krinsky 65) In addition to the offices, the Pepsi-Cola World Headquarters Building original had a health club and service area in the basement, a ground lobby for a reception and a gallery for travelling exhibitions. The eleventh floor also had a pantry and a lounge.

Dates: Commission / Completion:Project Approval: October 24, 1957 (e) / Start of site work: October 7, 1958 (e) / Inauguration: April 25, 1959 (e) / Opening Ceremony: February 1, 1960 (e)
Architectural and other Designer(s): Architects: Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (partner in charge: Robert W. Cutler; project manager: Albert Kennerly; design partner: Gordon Bunshaft; senior designer for project: Natalie de Blois); Interior Designers: SOM; Structural Engineers: Severud-Elstad-Krueger Associates; Acoustical Engineers: Bolt Beranek & Newman; Mechanical and electrical Engineers: Slocum and Fuller; General Contractor: George A. Fuller Company
Others associated with Building/Site: Original Owner: Pepsi-Cola Inc.; Second Owner: Olivetti Underwood Corp.; Third Owner: Peter Kalikow; Fourth Owner: Securities Groups; Current Owner: Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States and Tishman Speyer Properties.
Significant Alteration(s) with Date(s):
Current Use: The ground-floor was separated into two parts. The front part, facing the Park Avenue, now is TD Bank branch. The rear became an entrance of the rest of the building. The building now is still for commercial use, although the later building, 500 Park Tower, on its west side on 59th Street, which has a cantilever tower above it, is a mix-used building.
Current Condition: In 1980, James Stewart Polshek and Partners was commissioned to design the interior of Securities Groups Corporate Offices in the 10th and 11th floor of Pepsi-Cola Building, in the mean time, they were also in charge of the restoration of this building, which was owned by the Securities Groups Corporate that time(Polshek 45-46). The building is still in a good condition.
General Description:

Located on a 100’ X 125’ lot on the southwest corner of Park Avenue and 59th Street, the silver aluminum and glass façade of the Pepsi-Cola Building seems to be a symmetric rectangular 10-story office building, which is separated from its neighbor. Actually, this 13-story building is adjacent to the masonry building by its recessed L-shaped, black-granite-clad service core. Its visually clean-cut look earned high praise.
On the south side, the service core is recessed 15’ from its building line, which creates a visual separation. The opposite side, in order to comply with the zoning regulation of New York City, is set back 20’ from the building line. The glass wall of the ground floor on the east and north sides are also recessed with two piers in the exterior on the east side. Viewed from the Park Avenue, the 9-story curtain wall seems only supported by these two piers. Especially, the northeastern view of this building at night is like “an elegant box of glass and aluminum, floating on piers (Goldberger 154).”
The 13-story building contains the ground floor, divided by a large scale glass wall into an interior lobby for reception and exhibition use, and an exterior plaza; 9-stories of office space with the curtain wall, and the recessed penthouses, including the eleventh floor, which is set back the same distance as the ground floor for a boardroom and the remaining floors, further recessed, which were originally used for machinery. Being the largest part of the façade, the curtain walls, with polished gray-green plate glass windows, set within anodized aluminum frames, are divided into 5-bay on Park Avenue façade and 9-bay on 59th Street façade by I-shaped mullions. The proportion of the curtain wall, which is created by the aluminum and glass, is also considered to be one of the aesthetic reasons that makes this building so respected.
The interior of the ground floor was designed to be a reception and a gallery for travelling exhibitions. For an exhibition space, the recessed lights were used in the ceiling of the ground floor (In the current interior, these lights cannot be seen, but the recessed lights can be seen on the exterior ceiling of the ground floor). Because all the services were laid in the service core of the south and west end, the interior of the office floor are flexible and subdividable. The only restrain of the interior is the interruption of the 8 columns; even the partitions of offices were also movable. Partitions were designed to have glazed strips on top, which allowed natural light from the large size glass of the northern and eastern side to penetrate into the office cubes. The windows, viewed separated by the aluminum frame from the outside, are almost as high as the floor. The vertical blinds, which looked like high-quality mullions, were suggested to be designed intentionally. The exterior and the interior, which was also designed by SOM, show the modern aesthetic.

Construction Period:

The Pepsi-Cola Building is supported by 10 steel columns and reinforced concrete floor slabs. The steel columns, which are concrete fireproofed, were bolted together by the high-tensile strength bolting method, which was a new method in 1950s. The curtain wall is also considered as a technical innovation. In the book “Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill”, Carol Krinsky states, “The polished plate glass was made in the largest panes then obtainable, 9’x13’ and only 1/2” thick. The glass was cushioned by neoprene glazing strips, then sealed and secured with mastic to keep the joints between the glass and aluminum watertight without using heavy surrounding frames. The spandrels are made of encaustic-etched and anodized aluminum sheet a quarter-inch thick. Polished aluminum mullions… add a bright vertical accent to the horizontally emphatic design of the office stories (66).” The innovation of the curtain wall is not only a new technique, but a new way to create the exterior appearance.

Original Physical Context:

Located on the southwest corner of Park Avenue and 59th Street, the Pepsi-Cola Building was distinguished from its neighbors, a 20-story neo-Renaissance apartment to the south and the Nassau Hotel (originally the Hotel Roland, F. W. Fisher, 1897) to the west. Because the need of space of the Pepsi-Cola officers was relatively smaller, the height of the building would conflict with its neighbors. However, its modern appearance is still very different. The solutions of the problems were to set back the building line from the west side, and to cover the recessed wall with black-granite to the southern building. By this kind of design strategy, the building was considered as “respectful of the street and of the scale of its neighbors (Goldberger 154).”

Evaluation
Technical Evaluation:

As Gordon Bunshaft claims,”Even since we started doing skin walls, our effort was to make the metal as thin as possible. An ideal glass wall is one with no metal, but you needed the metal then because you had to make the wall strong to take the wind load, and you had to seal it properly. But we made this one as simple as possible at the time (Krinsky 66),” the innovation of curtain wall of this building is considered, not only in the progress of materials, but also in the progress of the construction method.
The materials used in this building, including the large, thin glass plate and the thin aluminum sheet, call people’s attention to this building. However, its construction details also were noticed by people. For instance, the German periodical “Bauen + Wohnen” introduced this building with the design sheet of curtain wall, in Oct., 1962. The curtain walls were highly praised for its elegance; but, the details of them were also worth to notice.
As Gordon Bunshaft claims,”Even since we started doing skin walls, our effort was to make the metal as thin as possible. An ideal glass wall is one with no metal, but you needed the metal then because you had to make the wall strong to take the wind load, and you had to seal it properly. But we made this one as simple as possible at the time (Krinsky 66),” the innovation of curtain wall of this building is considered, not only in the progress of materials, but also in the progress of the construction method.
The materials used in this building, including the large, thin glass plate and the thin aluminum sheet, call people’s attention to this building. However, its construction details also were noticed by people. For instance, the German periodical “Bauen + Wohnen” introduced this building with the design sheet of curtain wall, in Oct., 1962. The curtain walls were highly praised for its elegance; but, the details of them were also worth to notice.

Social:

Related to the famous SOM and the Pritzker Prize Winner, Gordon Bunshaft, the reputation of these people often makes people ignore other participators, especially a female architect after World War II. But it is undeniable that Natalie de Blois, the senior designer assigned to Gordon Bunshaft by SOM, was responsible for many details of this project, as well as other famous projects of SOM, including the Terrace Plaza Hotel of 1948 in Cincinnati, the Lever House of 1952 and the Union Carbide Building of 1960, both in New York. Her ability of being a senior designer was praised by others in SOM. The founder of SOM, Nathaniel Owings, described Natalie de Blois in his autobiography: “Her mind and hands worked marvels in design—and only she and God would ever know just how many great solutions, with the imprimatur of one of the male heroes of SOM, owed much more to her than was attributed by either SOM or the client.( qtd. in Paine 112).”
For a divorced working mother who raised four boys on her own, which was not popular in that period, Natalie de Blois was quite about her job in her early career life. But in 70’s, she began to write about the prejudices faced by female architects. (Paine 114). In 1974, having joined SOM in 1944 but having experienced thirty years of “working in others’ shadows” as a senior designer, de Blois left SOM. After that, she joined the Houston firm of Neuhaus & Taylor, and became a professor at the University of Texas in Austin.
Being a female architect and a working single mother, Natalie de Blois went from being a silent employee to an active member of the American Institute of Architect’s Task Force on Women; her story is inspiring to other female architects or working mothers. While planning Pepsi-Cola Building, Gordon Bunshaft was busy doing other project; this project was the best example of her design work in SOM.

Cultural & Aesthetic:
“The modernism exemplified by the Pepsi-Cola Building is that of the second wave of the International Style which flourished in this country in the post-World War II period (Landmark Preservation Commission 3).” The fact that this building is an International Style building is easy to tell from its structure, which is supported by the columns and floor, and its modular space. Although the building is asymmetrical, the intention to make the building visual symmetric is consistent with International Style. As it was described as "An elegant box of glass and aluminum, floating on piers but respectful of the street and of the scale of its neighbors. Like the Seagram Building, it is a jewel of metal and glass ..., one of the few instances of modern commercial architecture in New York succeeding at what it set out to do — create an elegant, refined, and civilized environment that would enrich the city at large (Goldberger 154-155)." One of the reasons that this building was praised form architects, critics and writes is the intention to be an modern building, but not produce conflict with its neighbors. This intention makes this building play an interesting role in its style.
Historical:

The Pepsi-Cola Building has been praised highly and widely since its completion. The building was awarded the “Building of the Year” by Municipal Art Society of New York in 1960, the same year of its completion. In 1961, one year after its completion, the American Institute of Architects gave it the “First Honor Award.” The third award this building received was the first City Club’s Albert S. Bard prize of Excellence in urban architecture.
Despite these awards for this building, Gordon Bunshaft, the design partner, was also famous. He was honored by several awards and medals, including the Brunner Prize of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1995, and its Gold Medal in 1984, and the Medal of Honor from the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The most famous honor he received was the Pritzker Prize, in 1988.
Bunshaft was influenced by the International Style and Mies van der Rohe’s buildings, and there are some Miesian elements found in this building. However, many buildings designed by Bunshaft also have the same elements. But the Pepsi-Cola Building, which is only 13-story high, is the only building which was designed in a small scale in New York City. As Sydney LeBlanc said in her book, “In contrast to the gargantuan office towers in the International Style, the Pepsi-Cola Building is comprehensible in size and scale, and perhaps this is why its subtle refinements make a stronger impression (109).”
Although it was praised for its small scale, ironically, the expansion tower next to this building is a 40-story high-rise building. The architect James S. Polshek continued the context of this building by giving the new building a metal-and-glass appearance. However, the small scale of the Pepsi-Cola Building was not the trend of office building design. The praises its earned still cannot change the investors’ mind.

General Assessment:
The Pepsi-Cola Building was seemed to be an International Style building. Furthermore, there are some elements that can distinguish its style more precisely?it is a Miesian style. The sleek curtain walls and thin vertical mullions are considered as Miesian elements. However, Bunshaft claims, “I don’t think that is necessarily Miesian: skin and bones. Mies, in my opinion…was really trying to enrich. He was making a statement which represented to me the essence of what America, the great steel country, should express. So he was not being a detail man trying to get a minimum; he was being a poet (qtd in. Krinsky 67).” Although he was influenced by Mies van der Rohe ,in this building, Bunshaft showed the different ideas, which were not found in his other design, of course, differed from Mies van der Rohe too.
Documentation
Text references:

Goldberger, Paul. The City Observed, New York: A Guide to the Architecture of Manhattan. New York: Random House, 1979. Print.
Krinsky, Carol H. Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. New York, N.Y: Architectural History Foundation, 1988. Print.
Landmarks Preservation Commission. "(Former) Pepsi-Cola Building (Now ABN-Amro Bank Building)." New York: Landmarks Preservation Commission. Jun. 1995.
LeBlanc, Sydney. 20th-century American Architecture: A Traveler's Guide to 220 Key Buildings. New York: Whitney Library of Design, 1996. Print.
Paine, Judith."Natalie de Blois." Women in American Architecture: A Historic and Contemporary Perspective : a Publication and Exhibition Organized by the Architectural League of New York Through Its Archive of Women in Architecture. Ed. Susana Torre. New York: Whitney Library of Design, 1977. Print.

Authoring
Recorder/Date: Ching-Hsuan Kuei
Additional Images
Pepsi-Cola Corporation World Headquarters
Floor Plan and Elevation, Source: Bauen + Wohnen, date: October, 1962
Pepsi-Cola Corporation World Headquarters
Elevation, Source: Bauen + Wohnen, date: October, 1962

Lever House

Added by admin, last update: July 23, 2014, 5:54 pm

Location
390 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10022
United States
40° 45' 34.4772" N, 73° 58' 20.5572" W
Identity of Building / Site
Primary classification: Commercial (COM)
Secondary classification:
Federal, State, or Local Designation(s) and Date(s):
History of Building/Site
Original Brief:
Dates: Commission / Completion:Completion 1952(e)
Architectural and other Designer(s): Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, architect
Others associated with Building/Site:
Significant Alteration(s) with Date(s):
Current Use:
Current Condition:
General Description:
Construction Period:
Original Physical Context:
Evaluation
Technical Evaluation:
Social:
Cultural & Aesthetic:
Historical:
General Assessment:
The construction of the 24-story glass and stainless steel Lever House established the suitability of the International Style for office building design. The building is especially dramatic in its setting since the vertical slab is set perpendicular to Park Avenue and appears to float above the one story base and open plaza.
Documentation
Text references:
Authoring
Recorder/Date: DOCOMOMO US Register committee, July 1999
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