Roche, Kevin

Ford Foundation Headquarters

Added by intern_test, last update: August 17, 2012, 1:47 pm

Ford Foundation Headquarters
Ford Foundation-01, source: Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates 1987 August Extra Edition a+u Publishing Co. Ltd. Tokyo, date: 1987
320 East 43rd Street #4
New York, NY 10017-4890
United States
40° 44' 59.5284" N, 73° 58' 16.0608" W
Identity of Building / Site
Primary classification: Administration (ADM)
Secondary classification: Landscape (LND)
Federal, State, or Local Designation(s) and Date(s):

New York City Landmark, 1997

History of Building/Site
Original Brief:

The Ford Foundation, chartered by Henry and Edsel Ford in 1936, is a private foundation providing grants focused on strengthening democratic values, community and economic development, education, media, arts and culture, and human rights. In addition to the Ford Foundation Headquarters on 43rd Street in New York City, the Foundation currently has twelve international field offices. In the early 1960’s the Ford Foundation sought to erect a permanent corporate headquarters in New York City that reflected the humanitarian beliefs the Foundation extolled.

Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates (KRJDA) was a relatively new firm in 1963 when they were approached to design the structure. Previously both Roche and Dinkeloo had worked for Eero Saarinen and Associates. Both the Ford Foundation and Saarineen and Associates had at one time been based in Michigan prior to 1960. Saarinen died in 1961 leaving Roche and Dinkeloo to finish such major projects as the TWA terminal at JFK International Airport for the original firm before founding KRJDA. Saarineen had believed in thoroughly researching a project and that there was always, “a unique solution for a unique problem” both traits which were firmly routed in the new firm.

The location and needs of the Ford Foundation Headquarters presented two challenges: a unique terrain and desire to interact with the community outside the Foundation, and a desire to build a sense of community within the organization. At the time the Ford Foundation employed over 400 workers in over a dozen divisions. The Foundation wanted a suitable, spacious environment for its employees without building beyond its needs.

The area immediately surrounding the future site in Tudor City abutted a small park on the east and an adjoining pre-war high-rise residential complex to the west. Roche created six models with various forms suited to the space, ranging from a low large footprint building with windows lining the exterior, to a 16-story slender tower with a plaza on the park side. The final design was carefully suited to conform to the existing street line and surroundings. Roche said later of the Foundations acceptance of his design, “They liked it because it wasn’t another office building. They liked it because it was a special identity. They liked it because we weren’t relating to 42nd Street. And they liked it because its intent was to create a community.”

The design was unveiled in 1964, immediately gaining critical praise. Ada Louise Huxtable of the New York times called it “an object lesson in the possibilities opened by fresh thought and a creative approach to the city’s most important commercial building problem: the provision of ample and impressive headquarters for large corporations or equivalent organizations, in structures that have some civic conscience as well.” The building was erected with few alterations to the final design scheme. Huxtable went on to describe the building as an “original, highly romantic beauty” just prior to the project’s completion in 1967. Additionally the New Yorker in a Talk of the Town article of the same year called the design, “an altogether new kind of urban environment.” The Architectural Record agreed it was a “new kind of urban space.” However the building also had its detractors, Vincent Scully among them. Architectural review argued the Ford Foundation Headquarters was “another instance of the firm’s preoccupation with the simplified structural statement leading to a kind of gigantism in architecture.”

Dates: Commission / Completion:1963-1967
Architectural and other Designer(s): Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates Landscape Design: Dan Kiley Interior/Furniture Design: Warren Platner Textile Design: Sheila Hicks
Others associated with Building/Site:
Significant Alteration(s) with Date(s): N/A
Current Use: Ford Foundation Headquarters
Current Condition: Well maintained. Since completion the building-management department at the Foundation has worked to maintain the building in close to original condition. The interior offices retain their original footprints with much of the original furniture remaining, including mahogany desks, wall-mounted bookshelves, cabinetry, and overhead hanging light fixtures. The exterior materials were chosen to age in place and the patina the steel facing has developed is in keeping with the tonality of the granite, which shows discoloration at street level.
General Description:

The Ford Foundation Headquarters is 14 stories, 2 of which are subterranean, and occupies a 200 by 200-foot site with a glass-enclosed, terraced third-of-an-acre garden. The exterior of the building is sheathed in Cor-Ten and glass with pink hued brown-flecked granite piers. A 10-story glass curtain wall on the south and east façade of the building reveals the interior garden to 42nd street and the park beyond. The exterior materials were chosen to compliment the existing architecture of the neighborhood.

The final footprint and street façade were carefully incorporated into the existing fabric. The resulting L-shaped office area with interior courtyard maintained both the existing street and skylines. All of the offices open to the interior courtyard and are faced in glass to take advantage of the natural light. The spacious individual offices were nearly sound proof with the doors closed, offering privacy. With the offices open to the atrium a sense of spaciousness was given to even small areas. Other offices could be viewed giving a sense of the size and scope of the organization. Paul Goldberger, Architectural critic for the New Yorker, noted that this created “a kind of ambiguity between public and private.”

The building was constructed using a 6-foot module. The offices come in three sizes- 12 by 12, 12 by 18, and 18 by 18. The upper two floors are suspended from large spandrel girders. The top floor has a C-shaped promenade offering a view of the garden 150 feet below. A “lozenge pattern” skylight formed the roof, made of I-beam trusses with three alternating bands of glazing. The walls and columns of the interior courtyard have 4” thick granite facing with mortarless joints. The stair landing meets the walls at a 45-degree angle, the corners left purposely open to create pools of natural light to compliment the artificial. The office furniture and lighting, designed by Warren Plattner, is uniform throughout with mahogany and leather covering the majority of work surfaces.

The main entrance is situated on 43rd Street. The inner garden spans the length of the building to 42nd Street and is terraced to accommodate for the slight decline in topography between the two street levels. The busier 42nd Street façade consists largely of the glass atrium through which the adjacent park can be viewed. The landscaping by Dan Kiley consisted of 37 trees, 999 shrubs, 148 vines, 21,594 ground cover plants, and 18 aquatic plants in the still pool. The exterior façades as well as sidewalks contain electric heating rods to prevent the formation of ice.

Construction Period:

The design process went through many incarnations until the needs of the site and client were met. The final design was revealed in 1964. By late 1967 employees began moving into finished office space as the terraced garden was being landscaped. The project was completed in entirety in 1968.

Original Physical Context:

In 1963 when KRJDA began planning for the Ford Foundation the neighborhood was already dominated by two significant architectural features: Tudor City and the United Nations. Erected in the 1920’s Tudor City was the first residential skyscraper complex in the world. The neighborhood style borrows heavily from British architecture under the Tudor dynasty, and the style is therefore relatively rare in New York. Beyond the intentional “quaintness” of Tudor City is the modern United Nations building completed in 1952. The Ford Foundation was intentionally designed to compliment the architectural synthesis of the neighborhood. The pre-existing high-rise to the west and park to the east were integrated into the design of the building so as not create disjuncture or distraction in the street plan.

Technical Evaluation:

The Ford Foundation was innovative in a multitude of ways, the most prominent of these being the creation of a large interior courtyard, a new kind of urban environment. The plan also prominently featured 45-degree angles, as in the stairway, creating a strong diagonal orientation within a square footprint, a development that occupied many architects in the following decade. The courtyard contains orderly mullions and spandrels interrupted by the massive columns, stairwell walls and suspension members, creating an assorted structural composition. The “lozenge style” skylight is composed of i-beam trusses securing glazing in three alternating bands, massive in scale yet still giving the appearance of faceted glasswork. The mortarless joints of the granite faced columns imitate piled-stone, complimenting the earthly garden below. As with the interior granite the exterior materials were also chosen to compliment, not impersonate, the foliage and surrounding environment. The design of the building was extremely detail oriented, every aspect carefully planned, from roof rainwater collection to irrigate the interior garden, laying heating rods under the sidewalks for ice prevention, and design of movable office furniture that could accommodate a variety of needs. Every aspect of the building was designed to emphasize community, enhance efficiency, and lend a note of seriousness to the business being conducted inside.


Both the architects and client aspired to create a building with a humanistic view of the workplace. The intention was to build both a corporate headquarters and civic monument that would be a contribution to the city, much as the Ford Foundation sought to contribute to the advancement of society through grants. Two issues were addressed with the introduction of the interior garden; privacy for workers while maintaining a sense of community, and the erection of an innovative building symbolic of the era without encroaching on the already well-established neighborhood. Though the design approach was effective in addressing the specific challenges of the site, it did not catch on as a common building typology in urban settings until later.

Cultural & Aesthetic:
The massive scale of the building components was characteristic of KRDJA’s early work. The Ford Foundation was an early innovator in urban public spaces, much copied in building lobbies and shopping malls, though rarely to such massive scale. The orderliness and detailed execution of every aspect of the building along with the massive height and scale of the inner courtyard were also characteristic of modernism’s new approach to architecture.

The Ford Foundation, from the unveiling of its original plans in 1964 to its completion in 1967 received largely positive critical acclaim. While it was praised by contemporaries for its innovative approach to urban space, it never gained the iconic status or attention of other ground breaking modernist buildings in New York such as Lever House or the Seagram Building. The Ford Foundation was one of the first buildings to execute the environmental trends of the period through the inclusion of green space and abundance of natural light and irrigation. The building itself uses less space then the zoning at the time allowed, an anomaly at the time. Largely ignored in the decades after its completion the building is now being recognized for its innovative environmental approach. In the 1990’s the building experienced a resurgence, receiving the Architects Twenty-five Year Award and Landmark status from the city of New York.

General Assessment:
The Ford Foundation was representative of the Modern Movement’s new approach to urban environments. Yet the environmental sensitivity of the project was decades ahead of its time and can be considered one of the first green buildings, not just for the foliage but the systems. The careful efforts of the Ford Foundation to maintain the building in near original condition is a testament to the success of the original design.
Text references:

Currey, Mason. 2008. “Rediscovered Masterpiece: The Ford Foundation.” Metropolis 28:90-104.

Hozumi, Nobuo. 1977. Global Architecture: Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates The Ford Foundation Headquarters, New York, NY 1963-68. Tokyo:A.D.A Edita.

Smith, C. Ray. 1980. Contemporary Architects. New York:St. Martins Press.

Unknown .1968.“A Foundation’s Atelier: The Ford Foundation Building.” Industrial Design 15: 26-27.

Recorder/Date: Felicia Smuts
Additional Images
Ford Foundation Headquarters
Ford Foundation-02, Source: Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates 1987 August Extra Edition a+u Publishing Co. Ltd. Tokyo, date: 1987

CBS Building

Added by admin, last update: July 27, 2012, 2:09 pm

51 W. 52nd Stree
New York, NY 10019
United States
40° 45' 40.158" N, 73° 58' 44.0688" 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:

By the late 1950s, the CBS Company had diversified and grown enormously. Its founder and CEO, William S. Paley, decided that the company’s rented space on Madison Avenue was neither adequate to the network’s need nor helpful to its image. Paley determined to build new company headquarters that could compete in architectural prestige with NBC’s and that it would have to be of the highest aesthetic quality. He bought the site on Sixth Avenue, between 52nd and 53rd Streets, an area he characterized as ‘emerging as the newest important business area in midtown.’ Paley hired Saarinen for he believed him to be one of the country’s outstanding architects, and also a creative artist in the deepest sense.

Dates: Commission / Completion:1961-1964
Architectural and other Designer(s): Eero Saarinen & Associates names of other designers: Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo, Joseph Lacy after Saarinen’s death Carson, Lundin & Shaw, interior architects Florence Knoll Bassett, Knoll Planning Unit, interiors Lou Dorfsman, CBS director of design Warren Platner, restaurant designer
Others associated with Building/Site: names of consulting engineers: Paul Weidlinger, structural; Consentini Associates, mechanical names of contractors: George A. Fuller Co.
Significant Alteration(s) with Date(s):
Current Use: Commercial ground floor and corporate offices in the rest of the building. Since CBS is in the process of being re-structured after the recent merger with Viacom, the office space is partially occupied
Current Condition: Very Good
General Description:

The tower of CBS headquarters is a freestanding 38-story concrete tower sheathed in dark granite and glass. The 800,000 square feet building has a 135-foot by 160-foot footprint, and stands in a sunken plaza that occupies the entire western end of the block bounded by Fifth and Sixth Avenues and West 52nd and 53rd Streets on a site that is 200’-10” x 216’-10”. It rises 490 feet without setbacks, occupies almost 60 percent of the area of the plaza, and it is set back 25 feet from the building line.

For his scheme Saarinen wanted to use reinforced concrete and face it with stone, which turned out to be very economical compared to the prevalent practice of steel frame construction typically used in high-rise office buildings. In fact, the CBS Building became New York's first postwar reinforced concrete skyscraper and one of the first to use an exterior bearing wall at a time when the glass curtain wall of the International Style was in vogue.

The plaza is paved in a gray granite slightly lighter than the one used in the building's piers. It is sunken below street level by approximately two feet forming a retaining wall with parapets and vertical slits on the inside faces. The design of the exterior walls of the tower called for triangular, weight-bearing, poured concrete piers, which along with the interior service and elevator core support the building. The use of piers is what gives the building its palpable verticality and its three-dimensionality; this again was a reaction to the ubiquitous curtain wall. The piers are conceived as projecting triangular "V"s with glass recessed behind them. By sheathing the concrete with Canadian black granite and filling the bays with gray-tinted vision glass, Saarinen created the illusion of a massive slab of dark granite which earned the building its nickname, "Black Rock". At each of the building four corners the "V"s meet to form double-width piers, creating the effect of chamfered corners.

The piers rise uninterrupted from the ground all the way to the top, and act as both bearing walls and conduits for services. "From the second-floor level they are hollow for ducts and sheared flat in the interior. At the ground floor, they are solid and fully diamond-shaped inside and out and almost as impressive as Greek columns." The service core of the building is designed to permit circulation within its walls saving the space of a public corridor around the core. It is joined by 35- foot long clear spans to cast-in-place peripheral columns. These do not intrude to support the floor slabs, but are anchored together with the columns using steel rods running through both. The top floor and the second floor of the building are mechanical floors, which are articulated on the exterior by the use of closely spaced, dark anodized vertical grilles on the bays instead of glass. The five foot widths of piers and window bays became the module of the whole design of the building. This would enable the company to standardize executive levels by size: a presidential suite would be 20' x 20', a vice-president's office 15' x 15', and a manager's 10' x 10'.

The design for the lobby of the building shows a peculiar twist in relation to the overall sober and subdued appearance of the exterior. The dark granite is present still in the structural columns and also on the flooring of the lobby. But the core containing the elevator banks is clad in white travertine; walls, floors, overhead lighting panels, and even the ashtrays of white travertine accomplish a sharp contrast with the dark surroundings. The western portion of the lobby was originally leased to a branch of the Bank of New York. It currently houses offices for Cushman Wakefield Investments. The eastern portion of the lobby housed the Ground Floor Restaurant, which was meant to rival Seagram Building's The Four Seasons. Today it houses The China Grill.

Saarinen proposed many schemes for the CBS tower, but the executed design was the one to which he always returned. In a 1961 article published in Progressive Architecture, his partner John Dinkerloo said the design for CBS embodied the late architect's idea of what an office tower should be. He added that his former partner believed he was going back to the tradition of Sullivan in Chicago while at the same time taking a step forward in the design of tall buildings. For most of its lifetime, Saarinen's CBS tower has been qualified as somber and austere, and this is in large part due to the darkling quality of the granite. Both the architect and the president of CBS wanted a building that would differ from the glass and steel skyscrapers of the International Style, one with identity and individualism. Saarinen wanted it to be subtle and refined, and believed a dark building was more quiet, dignified and appropriate to the site. His widow suggested he was thinking of executives in their dark gray suits when choosing the dark granite for the building. Yet Dinkerloo believed that the dark stone reflected the strength Saarinen was looking for better than glass.

Critical reaction to the CBS Building was favorable from most of the architectural community. The dark, somber dignity of the tower was however, not welcomed by the general public according to Ada Louise Huxtable; it seemed funereal compared to the "bright and shiny" look of curtain wall buildings. Huxtable cited this misconception as a fault of the public eye, one she did not agree with. She did, however, faulted the architects for failing to carry the distinct design of the building's exterior inside. She blamed this on the decision, after Saarinen's death, to divide the design of interior and exterior among two firms. As a result the inside of CBS "is a solid gold corporate cliché; a lavish cocoon, complete to standardized concealed wastebaskets and accredited and almost as equally standardized abstract art...the building has been turned into the anonymous, vacuum-packed commercial shell it was never meant to be."2

The sunken plaza was perceived more as a protective border for the building lacking most public amenities such as fountains, pools, or trees. The plaza's surrounding parapet is too high to provide resting places for pedestrians; it is uninviting and seems to declare an apartness from the rest of the street. Moreover, as critic Bethami Probst declared in a 1965 article, by settling itself so firmly on the sunken plaza, the CBS Building sacrifices its ability to soar as a skyscraper should. According to critic Paul Goldberger, Saarinen's building stands "maddeningly aloof" from its surrounding because of the sunken plaza scheme. In fact, he sees it as a continuation of a trend started in the 1950s when corporate glass towers rejected any connection to, or acknowledgment of, the context on which they stood, such as Lever House and Seagram. By standing back from the sidewalk, by sinking below the street level and for lacking entrances on Sixth Avenue, the building's disconnection is emphasized. At once it could be understood that Saarinen achieved the conceptual disassociation from the International Style, but also the physical disassociation as well in light of the prevailing architectural landscape of Sixth Avenue.

Nevertheless, the building's distinction lies in its austere color and its massing, which sets it apart from its repetitive neighbors. It also lies in its articulated verticality done through structure. And finally it lies in the fact that it broke away from prevalent building systems and aesthetics.
1. Ada Louise Huxtable, Will They Ever Finish Bruckner Boulevard? (New York: Macmillan, 1970) 101.
2. Huxtable, 101-102.

Construction Period:

Saarinen’s premise was a freestanding tower in a plaza, encouraged by the new 1961 zoning ordinance. He put the CBS Building in a sunken plaza, trying in some measure to respect the street wall of Sixth Avenue, keeping the plaza small and siting the tower a little off-center. The tower occupies approximately 60 percent of the plaza’s area and it is set slightly towards the east. Lacking the restriction of the old zoning, which encouraged progressively set-back towers, Saarinen used continuous reinforced concrete piers in the facades as load-bearing elements supporting the building, emphasizing the tower’s verticality.

Original Physical Context:
Technical Evaluation:

Saarinen's design for the CBS Building represented a departure from the International Style for not relying on the use of a glass curtain wall and pilotis. The architect restored the function the traditional masonry pier had before the advent of Modern minimalism by bringing it outside again. The architect’s use of triangular, weight-bearing, poured concrete piers(along with an interior service/elevator core) also turned out to be very economical compared to the prevalent practice of steel frame construction typically used in office buildings. The CBS Building became New York’s first postwar reinforced concrete skyscraper and one of the first to use an exterior bearing wall at a time when the glass curtain wall was the norm.

Cultural & Aesthetic:
The CBS Building epitomizes Saarinen’s idea of the simplest skyscraper in New York; this concrete tower sheathed in dark granite and glass reflects minimal simplicity and a sense of mass and austerity. The combination of Canadian black granite used in the cladding of the masonry piers and the gray-tinted glass in the bays creates the illusion of a massive slab of dark granite, which earned the building its nickname, “Black Rock.” In addition, the uninterrupted ‘V’ shaped piers rising from the ground all the way to the top give the building its palpable verticality and its three dimensionality. The almost complete absence of interruption the façades give the building its austerity. The absence of set backs also gives a monumental feeling to the act of entering the building when approached from W. 52nd and 53rd streets. By leaving the Sixth Avenue façade alone, the design also gives the building the appearance of an absolutely pure slab of granite. What has been described as ‘optical architecture, or a ‘three-dimensional study in architecture’, is Saarinen’s unique and simple design for the CBS Building, which allows the building to change in appearance as one walks around it. When seen directly, the tower’s bays appear open, with relatively narrow piers. However, when viewed from afar and at an angle, the piers eclipse the view of the glass creating the effect of solid mass. The building's distinction lies in its austere color and its massing, which sets it apart from its repetitive neighbors. It also lies in its articulated verticality done through structure. And finally it lies in the fact that it broke away from prevalent building systems and aesthetics.

With the CBS Building Saarinen returned to the skyscraper the sense of solidity and mass that had been its principal characteristic before the advent of Modern minimalism. But he did it in a completely Modernist way, by ‘restoring function to the masonry pier’; by using concrete he could take vertical columns on the outside wall and make them do something for a change. Saarinen made the piers thicker and deep so he could set the windows in deep recesses, so that from an angle you would see no glass at all.

The new 1961 zoning ordinance had encouraged tall towers set back in plazas in New York City. Saarinen met with architects and planners who were working out the new zoning proposal to find out if a tower in a plaza could work economically. His argument for the CBS Building served as a demonstration model for the new zoning. He established that the area per floor would have to be nearly 20,000 square feet gross for a profitable structure (in contrast to Seagram's 16,000 square feet on tower floors). The proposed new zoning would still have permitted only 16,000 square feet, but working together with city officials Saarinen came up with a new formula for CBS, which would yield over 20,000 square feet and produce a pleasant plaza for the city. The 1961 New York zoning amendment reflected planners’ and civic organizations’ aim at limiting the height and bulk of buildings. The city granted to the developers a 20 percent density bonus for buildings that created a public plaza on a portion of the lot. If towers were to cover 40 percent of their lots, they were allowed to rise to unlimited heights. According to historians, Saarinen’s meetings with planners and architects to work out the new 1961 zoning proposal and his designs and calculations for the CBS Building, helped shaped the new zoning law. His tower design begat the zoning amendment.

General Assessment:
Text references:

Christ-Janer, Albert, with a foreword by Alvar Aalto. Eliel Saarinen. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1948, ill.

Lund, Nils-Ole. "U. S. A. Ambassaden i Oslo." Arkitektur Denmark 3 (1960): 81-91.

Damaz, Paul. "École de Droit de L'Université de Chicago, Etats-Unis." Architecture D'aujourd'hui 96 (1961): 93-94.

Dinkerloo, John. "Saarinen's Sophisticated Skyscraper for CBS" Progressive Architecture 42 (1961): 53-54.

McQuade, Walter."Eero Saarinen, A Complete Architect."Architectural Forum 116 (1962): 103-117.

Probst, Bethami. "CBS: Somber Power on Sixth Avenue." Progressive Architecture 46 (1965): 188-190.

Huxtable, Ada Louise. Will They Ever Finish Bruckner Boulevard? preface by Daniel P. Moynihan. New York: Macmillan, 1970.

Roth, Leland M. A Concise History of American Architecture. New York: Harper & Row, 1979, ill.

Goldberger, Paul. The Skyscraper. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982, ill.

Nakamura, Toshiro, ed. Eero Saarinen. Spec. issue of Architecture and Urbanism(April 1984): 1- 240.
Saarinen, Eero. Eero Saarinen on his Work, A Selection of Buildings dating from 1947 to 1964, with statements by the architect . edited by Aline B. Saarinen. revised edition. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988, ill.

Scully, Vincent. American Architecture and Urbanism. New York: H. Holt, 1988, ill.

Stern, Robert A. M., Thomas Mellins, and David Fishman.New York 1960: Architecture and Urbanism Between the Second World War and the Bicentennial. New York: Monacelli Press, 1995, ill.

Willis, Carol. Form Follows Finance: Skyscrapers and Skylines in New York and Chicago. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1995, ill.

New York City. Landmarks Preservation Commission. The CBS Building, 51 West 52nd Street, aka 51-69 West 52nd Street, 52-66 West 53rd Street, and 1300-1316 Sixth Avenue. By Anthony W. Robins. New York: Landmarks Preservation Commission, 1997, ill.

Recorder/Date: Hansel Hernandez-Navarro / January 22, 2001
P.O. Box 230977
New York, NY 10023
Terms of use | Contact | Privacy Policy | Credits
© 2015 DOCOMOMO US Syndicate content Google+