It may be the single most important architectural detail of the last fifty years. Emerging bravely from the glassy sea of Madison Avenue skyscrapers in midtown Manhattan, the open pediment atop Philip Johnson and John Burgee’s 1984 AT&T Building (now the Sony Tower) singlehandedly turned the architectural world on its head. This playful deployment of historical quotation explicitly contradicted modernist imperatives and heralded the mainstream arrival of an approach to design defined instead by a search for architectural meaning. The AT&T Building wasn’t the first of its type, but it was certainly the most high-profile, proudly announcing that architecture was experiencing the maturation of a new evolutionary phase: Postmodernism had officially arrived to the world scene.
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This article was originally published on November 5, 2014. To read the stories behind other celebrated architecture projects, visit our AD Classics section.
In a city of skyscrapers of nearly every shape and size, the Citigroup Center on Lexington Avenue is one of New York’s most unique. Resting on four stilts perfectly centered on each side, it cantilevers seventy-two feet over the sidewalk and features a trademark 45-degree sloping crown at its summit. The original structure responsible for these striking features also contained a grave oversight that nearly resulted in structural catastrophe, giving the tower the moniker of “the greatest disaster never told” when the story finally was told in 1995. The incredible tale—now legendary among structural engineers—adds a fascinating back-story to one of the most iconic fixtures of the Manhattan skyline.
What did Pritzker Prize winner Frank Gehry get when he designed the Stata Center, an exuberantly whimsical academic complex for MIT? A very large check, plus a major lawsuit, alleging negligence and breach of contract due to rampant leaks, mold, cracks, drainage problems and sliding ice. Sometimes the most inspired designs can go awry. And when they do, some clients lawyer up. Here are 9 fascinating examples.