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Thread: One Chase Manhattan Plaza - by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

  1. #1
    Build the Tower Verre antinimby's Avatar
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    Default One Chase Manhattan Plaza - by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

    A Landmark From the Start, Now Getting Its Official Due

    In 1965, four years after it opened,
    the tower stood in stark contrast to
    its neighbors.

    Published: March 19, 2008

    The news may be that 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza — the towering silvery monolith that forever changed the Lower Manhattan skyline nearly a half century ago — has not been made a landmark already.

    The Landmarks Preservation Commission now intends to make an official landmark out of the aluminum-and-glass-skinned tower, which was completed in 1961 as the bank’s headquarters and is still 70 percent occupied by JPMorgan Chase & Company.

    “One Chase Manhattan Plaza is among New York City’s most important mid-20th-century skyscrapers,” the commission said in a statement released on Tuesday, when it voted unanimously to consider the designation, making it all but a foregone conclusion.

    And the building’s plaza, where the work of the sculptors Jean Dubuffet and Isamu Noguchi are set in a canyon among the financial district cliff sides, was renamed Tuesday in honor of David Rockefeller, the former chairman of Chase and the man most closely identified with the bank tower.

    This is all by way of marking the 50th anniversary of the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association. Mr. Rockefeller was chairman and the prime moving force of that group, which he has called an early effort “to breathe life into a moribund downtown.”

    New Yorkers of a certain age and sharp memory will detect a paradox in celebrating the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association with a landmark designation, since the group was a forceful opponent of the original landmarks law in 1965. And its first redevelopment proposal, 50 years ago, called for the demolition of hundreds of old buildings in what would later become four officially protected historic districts: South Street Seaport, TriBeCa North, TriBeCa South and TriBeCa West.

    The proposal was developed by the architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, which also designed 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza, which was the sixth tallest building in the world at the time of its completion.

    Robert R. Douglass, the current chairman of the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association (and a longtime associate of the Rockefeller family), certainly believes that landmark status is warranted for 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza, where he has worked since 1971, both for Chase and at the law firm Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy.

    “It lives very well,” Mr. Douglass said. “It has a universal, almost timeless, appeal.”

    In 1996, JPMorgan Chase moved its headquarters to 270 Park Avenue, the former Union Carbide Building, which was also designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

    Frank J. Bisignano, the chief administrative officer for JPMorgan Chase, said the bank was “pleased” by the prospective designation.

    Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

  2. #2
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    Default The photos accompanying the above Times article...

    On its completion in May 1961, 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza was described by The New York Times as
    "New York's newest landmark." It is now being considered for official landmark status.

    The aluminum and glass facade rose without setback in sheer
    walls 813 feet high, making 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza the sixth
    tallest building in the world at the time. (All five taller buildings
    were also in Manhattan.)

    The blazing monolith stood in stark
    contrast with the slender pinnacles that
    composed the downtown skyline. Not every
    critic was pleased. But the building's drama,
    especially at twilight, was undeniable.

    Even today, the silvery curtain wall of 1 Chase Manhattan
    Plaza can catch the eye as it emerges from dark masonry

    A delightful counterpoint to the rigid geometries of the building, by
    Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, is the monumental sculpture, "A Group of
    Four Trees" by Jean Dubuffet, which was installed on the plaza in 1972.

    The Landmarks Preservation Commission says the "gnarly, twisting sculpture provides a striking foil to the
    spacious plaza and its austere tower." (Building seen at right, through the sculpture's trunks, is 70 Pine Street.)

    Some faces you see on the plaza are more fanciful than others. What
    looks like a monstrous grotesque is in fact just the edge of a stone in
    the sunken rock garden by the sculptor Isamu Noguchi.

    Noguchi's garden, filled with water, as seen from above; a circular incision in the plaza.

    Windows in the main banking hall surround the Noguchi garden. On a summer twilight, the plaza seems to
    glow from below.

    The rocks in Noguchi's garden were imported from Japan. They create a centerpiece behind glass in the
    main banking floor and fill the area around them with daylight.

    The large expanses of glass around the lobby help blur the distinction between outside and inside.

    The great expanses glass throughout the building created some astonishing panoramas, like this one from
    the 60th floor, overlooking the top of 40 Wall Street.

    The individual most closely identified with 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza is David Rockefeller, seen here in his
    days as the bank's chairman, with a secretary, Edna Bruderly.

    The plaza at 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza was renamed for Mr. Rockefeller on March 18, 2008.

  3. #3


    This tower did take the elegance out of the Downtown skyline but I always liked it.

  4. #4


    Not my favorite Downtown building to say the least, but it was very innovative at the time. It holds a good amount historical significance and is deserving of this status in my opinion.

  5. #5
    Kings County Loyal BrooklynLove's Avatar
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    i have been up high in that building on a clear day - the views are sick.

  6. #6


    I had always hoped it would one day be torn down. Alas, the Commission, which has failed time and again to protect the City's truly history, has now landmarked the main symbol of its destruction.

  7. #7


    The day that this building would have been financially viable to tear down would most likely be after all of us are dead.

  8. #8
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Like it or not one would be hard pressed, given the history of NYC and the criteria for landmarking buildings, to come up with a viable argument whereby One Chase Manhattan Plaza is NOT a landmark-worthy structure.

  9. #9


    Judging from photo 12 in the Times set, this is definately a building to look out from - rather than on to...

  10. #10


    OneChase (like many other International-Style buildings) has more in common with classic New York than many buildings being built today.

    The conservative grey color, the classical proprtions (note the "capital" at the top), the rigid symmetry, the rectangular shape. The size is block-buster but the style in so many ways, humbly refers to what has gone before.

    Compare it to the twisted asymmetrical shapes, colorful, shiney things that some ego-driven star architects are coming up with. Individually pretty perhaps ...but THEY are the aliens.

    Last edited by Fabrizio; March 24th, 2008 at 07:09 PM.

  11. #11
    Forum Veteran TREPYE's Avatar
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    Thumbs down What a joke....

    This is a farce and a misuse of landmark protections. Seagrams and Lever House Towers were towers that have historical meaning due to being one of the first of its kind, but this montrocity PO...t!?!?

    No tower is as emblematic of ruining a skyline like this one. For this I call One Chase Plaza the ultimate Skyline Killer. Just look at the before and after pictures of DT it turns my stomach, and I am somewhat flabbergasted that it does not have the same effec on most people who are not developers.

    The worst thing that happened to DT, tall enough to block everything and disrup the harmony of spires yet short enough to not stand out. An abuse of air space and indiscriminate shameless bulk. The ultimate money cow, the dark turn of NYC architecture when the stakeholders decided that aesthetic appeal should be sheared for additional profits. So elborate was this plan that they even managed to make it dogmatic and give it a following and called it.....modernism.

    For those who loved to follow a good trend the flood gates of mundane archtiecture were opened under the guise of "new" and all NYC kept getting through the 60's and 70's is the destruction of aesthetic oriented architecture such as beaux arts for an asenine motto: "decoration is sin". Asenine to those who did not have careless profits in mind and thought beyond trends.

    If anything, I always hoped that its eventual obsolete oriented deconstruction would serve as metaphorical eraser for an mistake in architectural judgement. I will have to pin that hope on another tower, pehaps One Penn Plaza....another POG of the same level, hopefully this city wont be stupid enough to landmark that one. You would think not but after this display of putrid landmarking judment anything is possible.

    What a disgrace.

  12. #12
    Senior Member
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    It is a very tall and important building for Downtown Manhattan, and had enormous effect on making Downtown a viable destination for financial firms. However, it's not a very pretty building. It's rather plain.

  13. #13
    Build the Tower Verre antinimby's Avatar
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    It looks better up close than from afar.

  14. #14


    Quote Originally Posted by TREPYE View Post
    An abuse of air space and indiscriminate shameless bulk. The ultimate money cow, the dark turn of NYC architecture when the stakeholders decided that aesthetic appeal should be sheared for additional profits. So elborate was this plan that they even managed to make it dogmatic and give it a following and called it.....modernism.
    It's not like developers declared "we want bigger behemoths than ever before" and simply got it from the architects. New technologies, specifically air conditioning and flourescent lights, were introduced around WWII which allowed for floorplates much, much bigger than previously possible.

    Also, I'd put the "dark turn" back about 10 years. Look to the hunk o' junk just south of the ex-Verizon building on Bryant Park as Exhibit A. There's tons of crap like it all over Midtown (thanks, Emory Roth & Sons), and the only reason they're not as appaling as a typical '60s box is because the zoning laws hadn't been changed to allow for what the new techologies could do. The facades are all pure garbage, but they still had to fit the wedding cake form, giving them a relatively innocuous presence compared to what came after them.

    Oh yes, and I like this tower. What it did to the once-majestic downtown skyline is borderline unforgivable, but I think it's one of the most gorgeous modernist boxes in existence. It's just really too bad about its context..

  15. #15
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    The landmarks Committee voted today - 1 Chase Manhattan is now officially a New York City Landmark

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