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  7. AD Classics: Seagram Building / Mies van der Rohe

AD Classics: Seagram Building / Mies van der Rohe

AD Classics: Seagram Building / Mies van der Rohe
AD Classics: Seagram Building / Mies van der Rohe, Courtesy of
Courtesy of

From the architect. Located in the heart of New York City, the Seagram Building designed by Mies van der Rohe epitomizes elegance and the principles of modernism. The 38-story building on Park Avenue was Mies' first attempt at tall office building construction. 

AD Classics: Seagram Building / Mies van der Rohe AD Classics: Seagram Building / Mies van der Rohe Courtesy of © Flickr user: Smallforks +19

Mies' solution set a standard for the modern skyscraper. The building became a monumental continuity of bronze and dark glass climbing up 515 feet to the top of the tower, juxtaposing the large granite surface of the plaza below.

Mies' response to the city with the Seagram Building was the grand gesture of setting back the building 100 feet from the street edge, which created a highly active open plaza. The plaza attracts users with its two large fountains surrounded by generous outdoor seating. By making this move, Mies distanced himself from New York urban morphology, lot line development, and the conventional economics of skyscraper construction. 

Lobby floor plan
Lobby floor plan

The plaza also created a procession to the entry of the building, providing the threshold that linked the city with the skyscraper. This threshold continues into the building as a horizontal plane in the plaza that cuts into the lobby. The lobby also has a white ceiling that stretches out over the entry doors further eroding the defined line between interior and exterior.

The office spaces above the lobby, furnished by Philip Johnson, have flexible floor plans lit with luminous ceiling panels. These floors also get maximum natural lighting with the exterior being glass panes of gray topaz that provide floor-to-ceiling windows for the office spaces. The gray topaz glass was used for sun and heat protection, and although there are Venetian blinds for window coverings they could only be fixed in a limited number of positions so as to provide visual consistency from the outside.

AD Classics: Seagram Building / Mies van der Rohe, Courtesy of
Courtesy of

The detailing of the exterior surface was carefully determined by the desired exterior expression Mies wanted to achieve. The metal bronze skin that is seen in the facade is nonstructural but is used to express the idea of the structural frame that is underneath. 

Additional vertical elements were also welded to the window panels not only to stiffen the skin for installation and wind loading, but to aesthetically further enhance the vertical articulation of the building.

The Seagram Building, with its use of modern materials and setback from the city grid, became a prototype for future office buildings designed by Mies as well as a model for many buildings erected in its surroundings. This building, fifty years after its completion, is still admired by many visitors everyday and sets an example of an International style skyscraper amidst the New York skyline.

Mies' sketch
Mies' sketch

This building is part of our Architecture City Guide: New York. Check all the other buildings on this guide right here.

Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address. Cite: Adelyn Perez. "AD Classics: Seagram Building / Mies van der Rohe" 10 May 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed . <>
Read comments


Alex · December 09, 2014

The Seagram building, to an extent, mystifies me. I understand that it certainly set a precedent for the language of the mid-century skyscraper, but it does not stand out, to me, as being particularly unique or well executed. I understand that it was exceptionally expensive in its use of fine materials, but there are innumerable other buildings that preceded the Seagram building and even more that followed in its stead, but ultimately (and even in spite of its well-regarded forecourt) the building seems to propagate a faceless, even soulless iteration of - essentially - industrial/corporate architecture that ignores the human scale and its surroundings. Was that not exactly what modern architecture (and mies himself) was trying to avoid in projects like the Weissenhoffsiedlung?Perhaps this is simply a problem with the international style in general, but I cannot for the life of me understand why it is so celebrated. This building seems to me, though important and different, to epitomize a moment in architecture that we should learn not to repeat.

Robert Guarino · June 10, 2012

AD Classics: Seagram Building / Mies van der Rohe | ArchDaily via @archdaily

Sofitel New York · March 28, 2012

This week&#39s architecture highlight for visitors is the Seagram Building: via @archdaily #architecture

DilSoares · March 27, 2012

126° Aniversário de Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, foi um arquiteto alemão, considerado um dos principais nomes da...

ppriolo · February 06, 2012

@ArchDaily Classics: Seagram Building / Mies van der Rohe (1954-58).

Valério Araújo · September 10, 2010

eu iria para NY somente para ver o Seagram Building do Mies.

Valério Araújo · September 10, 2010

eu iria para Chicago somente para ver o Seagram Building do Mies.

nammitt · August 30, 2010

this building must be the template from which all the other "glass box" and Trump Towers of New York get their inspiration

Florentina Nathania · May 18, 2010 ternyata interior seagram sekeren ini!! ckck

Mies van der Rohe · May 13, 2010

AD Classics: Seagram Building / Mies van der Rohe Johnson never got it #mies #seagram #NYC

Ben Street · May 12, 2010

RT @cmonstah: A little Mies porn.

Kelly Hines · May 12, 2010

RT @cmonstah A little Mies porn.

Carolina A. Miranda · May 12, 2010

A little Mies porn.

norm · May 11, 2010

this is one of the the only two buildings that is set back on park avenue (the other being park ave church) it completely breaks the code of the avenue and creates this amazing public space, and creates a special identity for the building & corperation. and yes this is a good idea, but not every architect can achieve the same. The Seagram familiy paid a lot of money and they managed to create an exception within the zoning rule of Manhattan - so it's capitalism and architecture working hand by hand, which is what Mies was so keen to express, the new look of capitalism.

amron · May 11, 2010

miss u mies!

derrick · May 11, 2010

did they ask EVERYONE to turn on their lights in the first pic? :)

archi · May 11, 2010

Ah, the good old days. Before gerkins, shards, blobs, crystals, wedges, rolled up newspapers and 'biomimicry', we had crystal clear, warts and all modernism. Thanks Mies.

eman · October 17, 2010 12:16 PM

modern then is not modern now. titles and name calling aside, not understanding something doesn't give license to discard or disregard it.

probably not what mies would do today.

mauro parolo · May 11, 2010
#mies questo progetto risale ai primi anni 50..... #ATTUALITA&#39 · May 11, 2010
CaptainSHEEP · May 11, 2010

RT @archdaily: AD Classic: Seagram Building / Mies van der Rohe

16:08:78 · May 11, 2010


Here’s a quote from this article:

“The metal bronze skin that is seen in the facade is nonstructural but is used to express the idea of the structural frame that is underneath.”


So, the metal bronze skin on Seagram Building is an implicit ornamental appliqué used to connote structural meaning, although not actually a structural element. I thought Modern architecture was all about honesty to materials and genuine aesthetic structure.

ROSS · September 27, 2012 02:44 AM

si bien es cierto la estructura no esta hecha de bronce, si hubiese sido por mies el dejaba la estructura tal cual la hizo pero hiba en contra del reglamento de edificaciones de new york, toda estructura debia estar recubierta por algun elemento por precaucion a incendios, es por esto q mies recubre la estructura

Chiaro Scuro · May 11, 2010 06:56 AM

... Stick to Loos.

roberto · May 11, 2010 05:44 AM

16:08:78 I believe you're misreading Mies. Perhaps a quote from the master may help elucidate: "Means must be subsidiary to ends and to our desire for dignity and value."

tim sullivan · May 11, 2010

I live in a Mies-designed apartment building in Newark, New Jersey, USA and love it. The building turned 50 years old this year and it still looks as sleek and modern as the day it was opened. His design is timeless.

ef · May 11, 2010

great series!

marlambie · May 11, 2010

"god is in the details" ...details please AD? :) great series, keep them coming!

Dimitris · May 11, 2010

Timless! So fresh it makes you think a lot about starchtiectdom...

Francisco Valverde · May 11, 2010

Seagram Building / Mies van der Rohe

roberto · May 11, 2010

Truly a classic!
Facade contains nearly 3.2 million lbs of bronze... the single largest use of architectural bronze - ever! Long live Mies!

Nicholas Patten · May 11, 2010

AD Classics: Seagram Building.

Pda · May 10, 2010

I agree. Most Of the recently design towers look kind Of ridiculous!

mima · May 10, 2010

time to bring back to mind what actually is good architecture! this one definitely is better than most new towers i've seen in the last years!

AP · May 10, 2010

lol at the comment above

rupertkensington · May 10, 2010

i can't believe they built this thing, it looks so fifties and 'high modern'. i thought that fad was all over. just kidding-awesome recap of a great building thanks guys

JG · May 10, 2010

Very Insightful and Clear.
Thank You


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西格拉姆大厦 / Mies van der Rohe