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
The building is currently in
sparkling condition following a major renovation project (also by SOM).
For more information call Lever Brothers on +1 212
The building is directly across
Park Avenue from the Seagram
Building by Mies van der Rohe.