Lever House
390 Park Avenue (at 53rd Street)
New York City

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (Gordon Bunshaft) 1952

Lever House's innovative geometry has been much copied elsewhere: the tall slab of the office tower occupying only part of the site's area, and offset by the horizontal slab of the base. 

Here the base is a single-story mezzanine, supported by columns around the perimeter and providing a public pedestrian area beneath. 

The lowest floor of the tower is recessed, emphasizing the geometric relationship of the two slabs. 


In contrast to the rest of the translucent glass of the vertical slab, the top three floors of the vertical slab are opaque (hiding machinery). The strong resulting band around the top of the tower provides a balance to the base slab. In a restrained way the building thus follows the early skyscraper design of mirroring the base, shaft and capital of a classical column.

The whole is almost petite by the standards of the neighborhood, at 24 stories. It nonetheless not only influenced subsequent skyscraper design, but also helped Skidmore, Owings & Merrill to prominence.

As the headquarters of  the world's biggest manufacturer of soap and detergent, the continuing cleanliness of the building was critical. The blue-green glass and stainless steel frame can be kept clean and free from grime, and have been - as a deliberate showcase for the company's cleaning products.

Simon Glynn 2001, updated 2003


How to visit

Lever House is still occupied by Lever Brothers, with public spaces open during office hours. It is located on the west side of Park Avenue in midtown Manhattan, between 53rd and 54th Streets. 

The building is currently in sparkling condition following a major renovation project (also by SOM).

For more information call Lever Brothers on +1 212 688 6000.

The building is directly across Park Avenue from the Seagram Building by Mies van der Rohe.


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