Guggenheim Museum

The Guggenheim Museum in New York is probably the most famous building by Frank Lloyd Wright. The special thing about the Guggenheim is the way you walk through the exhibition, which leads downwards along a round ramp. This rounding also shapes the exterior appearance of the building. The large rotunda has a glass roof, which illuminates the interior. From the ramp you enter the individual exhibition rooms, the ramp itself also serves as an exhibition area. The museum's architecture is very dominant, some critics claiming that the building is stealing the show. In fact, the Guggenheim has become a monument, an icon of architecture.

The Guggenheim family from Philadelphia became wealthy through a mining monopoly. Salomon R. Guggenheim bought Modern Art from Europe and commissioned the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright to build a museum for his art collection. Non-Objective art, as the modern age was called at that time, was new. The Nazis condemned them as "degenerate art". When the museum opened in 1959, the artists were already famous, but the Salomon R. Guggenheim Museum played a key role in making this art known to the public.

Actually, the building should be called the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, but since Salomon R. Guggenheim died in 1949, the museum was named after its patron. Frank Llyod Wright also died before the opening of his masterpiece. The project had cost a lot of energy, and Hilla von Rebay, the museum's first director, made a big impact on the design. She had chosen Frank Lloyd Wright as an architect, was an artist herself, she chose material and color of the building.

The new part of the building, behind the two round structures, was built in 1992. The expansion was planned by the architect Gwathmey Siegel Kaufmann from New York. However, Frank Lloyd Wright had already designed the extension back then. 



1071 Fifth Avenue

Seagram Building

The Seagram Building looks like many modern office towers from the 1970s. The difference is that the Seagram Building was built as early as 1958 and thus is the mother of all these clones, although the UN headquarters and the Lever House were completed in 1952. The approximately 157 m high tower was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The Bauhaus teacher emigrated to the United States in 1938 because the Bauhaus in Dessau was closed by the Nazi Party. He went to Chicago, where he opened an architecture office and was teacher at the Armor Institute. The residential towers on Lake Shore Drive, which already bore the genes of the Seagram Building, were built in 1951. The Seagram Building was his first office tower that he built together with Philip Johnson, because he was not admitted in New York City.


Why is the Seagram Building so famous?

Mies van der Rohe is considered a pioneer of the International Styl, which is characterized by simple forms. The saying less is more by Mies van der Rohe is legendary. The Seagram Building is a rectangular box with a glass curtain wall facade. That means, the load-bearing structure is behind the facade. The vertical supports are concealed by horizontal bands of glass and metal. Buildings used to have a pedestal, a shaft and a top. This classic tripartite division only occurs in modern buildings for functional reasons. The entrance area is designed different from the office floors above and on the roof is the technology that requires no windows.

Through setbacks, skyscrapers rejuvenated to avoid obscuring other buildings. This was governed by the Zoning Resolution of 1916. The new towers of modern architecture circumvented this law by constructing a flat structure on one part of the site and a tower on the other. Mies van der Rohe left blank one part of the property and thereby created a public space. The Seagram Building eventually changed the law in 1961, since then a certain amount of usage space is allowed on each property, which increases when you create a public space. 

Buildings by Mies van der Rohe:

Barcelona PavillonNeue Nationalgalerie 

Lever House

The Lever House is an icon of architectural history, it was the first Curtain Wall building in New York City. Mies van der Rohe had previously built the Lake Shore Drive Apartments in Chicago with steel skeleton construction and curtain wall facade. This construction quickly became the hallmark of modern architecture. The international style spread this method of construction around the world.

The Lever House was designed by Gordon Bunshaft, who designed the office tower for the architectural firm of SOM (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill). The client was the British company Lever Brothers now called Unilever.

Bunshaft designed a 94 m high tower, which grows from a horizontal base but seems to hover above. The plinth encloses the whole plot but is open in the middle. Here is a garden with a restaurant. The roof of the low-rise building is surrounded by a hedge, on top of the roof are trees. The skyscraper rises directly along Park Avenue, the tower is keeping a distance at 53 and 54 Streets, because at that time the Zoning Law was still in force, requiring setbacks. To avoid this, the tower was placed in the interior of the block.

The facade consists of aluminum profiles and green glass. In 1998, the façade was replaced but its appearance was not changed.


390 Park Ave



United Nations

After John D. Rockefeller Jr. donated the land on the East River, planning began for the new UN headquarters in New York. The planning was carried out by an international team of architects led by Wallace Harrison from the USA. The "board of design" also included the Brazilian Oskar Niemeyer and the Swiss architect Le Corbusier, who together designed the secretariat building. The high-rise administration building on the East River is 155 m high and was the first skyscraper in New York with a curtain wall. The headquarters of the United Nations was completed in 1951. The property belongs to the United Nations and is not part of the United States. As a result, no national laws or building regulations apply here. During renovation in 2010, the facade was replaced, but retained its original appearance.  

Buildings by Oskar Niemeyer:

Congresso NacionalCatedral Metropolitana Brasilia

Buildings by Le Corbusier:

Unité d'Habitation MarseilleCorbusier-Haus BerlinVilla Savoye PoissyCentre Le Corbusier ZürichMuseum of Western Art TokyoWeißenhofsiedlung Stuttgart   

Pan Am Building

The Pan Am Building was built in 1963 on top of the Grand Central Station. It was the administrative building of Pan American World Airways. The architecture of the 246 m high tower was designed by Walter Gropius, who fled from Germany to America in 1937. He worked as a professor at the Harvard University. Together with Pietro Belluschi and the architecture firm of Emery Roth & Sons, the Pan Am Building was constructed.

The office building with its octagonal shape is a reminiscent of the Pirelli Tower of Gio Ponti and Pier Luigi Nervi, built three years earlier in Milan. However, the Pan Am Building is higher and is divided by three horizontal glass bands. The structure is made of steel and the facade of glass and aluminum. The skyscraper characterizes the cityscape of New York because it stands in the flight of Park Avenue.

Pan Am was a transcontinental airline that had a monopoly on intercontinental flights. After the Airline Deregulation Act 1978, this monopoly was abolished and Pan Am had to face the national competition and perished in 1991. The Pan Am Building was sold in 1993 and is now called MetLife Building. 

Buildings by Walter Gropius:

Bauhaus DessauWeißenhofsiedlung StuttgartGropiusstadt Berlin 

Gehry Tower

The residential tower by architect Frank O. Gehry is located between Spruce Street and Beekman Street. The official name of the structure is 8 Spruce Street. The skyscraper was built between 2006 and 2011. With a height of 267 meters and 76 floors, it is one of the tallest towers in southern Manhattan. The residential building can accommodate over 900 apartments.

The tower stands on a T-shaped floor plan, which is hardly recognizable due to the irregularly shaped aluminum façade and setbacks. Wild sheet metal facades are the trademark of Frank O. Gehry.

Other Gehry buildings:

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Disney Concert Hall Los Angeles, Settlement Goldstein Frankfurt, Fondation Louis Vuitton Paris 

New Museum

The New Museum is a very special building designed by the Japanese architects of SANAA. Cubes of different heights and widths were stacked together to from a tower. Where there are setbacks there are roof terraces with views over the southern Manhattan. The nested building shell is held together by a uniform facade. The white painted cubes are overlaid by a mesh of anodised expanded aluminum. This net is also in front of glass surfaces, so the facade looks like a gray veil and the building looks uniform and elegant.

The interior does not require supports and offers large space, as the building core with elevators and staircase is not in the middle of the museum. The New Museum was opened in 2007.

Other buildings by SANAA 

Design School Essen,Christian Dior Tokyo, Ferry Terminal Naoshima

Map architecture New York


New York City Guide

Architectural guide New York City

This architectural guide shows the most important buildings of contemporary and modern architecture. Buildings such as the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building or the Flatiron Building can be found under the section New York Sights.