Last week, as the NY Times reported, the interior of 510 Fifth Avenue received landmark protection by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The building, designed by Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill back in the 1950s, served as a branch of the former Manufacturers Trust Bank (later the Chase Bank Building) and is situated on a dense Manhattan block near the New York Public Library, Cook+Fox’s recent One Bryant Park, and the park itself. More about the landmarked interior after the break.
In 1997, the exterior of the building received landmark status, and now, the modern interior designed by consultant Eleanor H. Le Maire will also be protected. The building marks an important point in banking typology as Bunshaft abandoned the typical “fortress” style for a more open and transparent atmosphere. The open plan of the building is illuminated by large windows and creates a new kind of relationship between passersby and those inside the bank.
As Matthew A. Postal notes in his Landmarks Preservation Commission research, “At the time of construction, SOM did not have an interior design division and Eleanor H. Le Maire was responsible for the interiors, which were praised for being in ‘accord with the directness and purity of the architecture.’ “ Some highlights of the interior space include a cantilevered second floor condition with an 18-foot-high ceiling height, white marble piers, twin escalators, and a luminous ceiling that hangs above the floors to hide the light fixtures and create a sense of a “floating, illuminated grid.”
Another great aspect of the interior is the prominent 7 foot high, 30-ton circular main vault designed by Henry Dreyfuss. The idea to put the vault on a public level was a strong statement against the traditional vaults which were hidden below ground. As Postal notes, “According to the architects, aesthetics played an important role: It’s like sailors and boats. While we were designing the building, the bankers kept taking us down into bank cellars and showing us vault doors; then they would stand around looking at them, and say to each other reverently, ‘Isn’t it beautiful!” After a while we began to agree.” We are happy to report that now, both the exterior and interior of this historical project will be preserved for years to come. Source: Matthew A. Postal; Landmarks Preservation Commission