Seven decades after designing Lever House, SOM returns to the iconic modernist building to resume its restoration, continuing its long-lasting stewardship of the project. SOM previously revisited the building in 2001, restoring its façade using high-performance materials while preserving the original architectural image. This time, the intervention concerns the ground floor and the third level terrace, as well as the mechanical systems, to significantly improve the building’s energy performance. When complete in 2023, the renovation will become an important example of extending the life of the midcentury built environment.
Completed in 1952, Lever House was one of the first curtain wall skyscrapers in the United States and marked a significant shift from masonry buildings towards a modernist aesthetic. The Landmarks Preservation Commission assigned Lever House landmark status in 1982, just 30 years after its inauguration, a pivotal moment for the preservation of modernist heritage. The new renovation scheme seeks to ensure the office building's high performance for years to come.
The renovation entails restoring the public space surrounding Lever House by replacing the non-original pavement with cast-in-place concrete matching the original design intent. The original stainless steel-clad columns, which were damaged in time, will be restored and refinished, together with the black limestone wall that acts as a backdrop for the lobby. Inside, the original terrazzo floor will be repaired and refinished, and various damaged elements within the lobby will be restored. SOM also proposed two new openings in the limestone wall to improve functionality, an idea met with reservation by the preservation commission.
Renovation plans also include unifying the landscape design by incorporating birch trees in the plaza and on the third-floor terrace. The latter will also undergo significant changes, as the non-original red paving will be replaced with a more durable grey precast paver. In terms of improving the mechanical systems, SOM plans on removing the original induction units, thus increasing usable floor space and ceiling heights. The building will be fitted with new chillers and dedicated outdoor air systems.