Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 17

Thread: Equitable Building

  1. #1

    Default Equitable Building

    Tried to search a topic of Equitable Building here but got loss. I know it is one of the most blamed buildings in NYC, the reason of 1916 Zonning Law (Code) [BTW how to say more correct: 'Law' or 'Code'?] and so on but I still love it. Guess it is one of the most important landmarks at lower Manhattan, so I'd like to get some info and pics from the insiders

  2. #2

    Default Equitable

    additional question:
    is it clad just in a light brick?

  3. #3

    Default

    Here you'll find some info-
    http://www.nyc-architecture.com/LM/LM059.htm

    Built between 1912 and 1915 for the Equitable Life Assurance Society.
    The building was in fact made to the second plans for a skyscraper to the site: in 1908 Daniel H. Burnham (designer of the Flatiron Building) had designed a 62-storey tower of 323 m, but the project was postponed, and after the old company headquarters had burned down in 1912 -- and steps behind the scenes taken -- eventually, the 166 m tall design by Ernest R. Graham was built.

    The neo-Renaissance building occupies the whole block, and rising in two masses above the base and connected by a wing for the building's whole height, forms a giant letter "H" when viewed from above.

    The height of the building was decided upon after consulting with elevator engineer Charles Knox, who determined the optimum number of floors for effective elevator service in the building. This resulted in reducing the number of floors from the originally planned over 40 to 36. This was one of the first buildings where the number of floors in a skyscraper was determined by such calculations.

    At the time of its completion, the building caused resentment due to its massive scale (housing over 111,000 m² of office space, a FAR equivalent of 30!), and for blocking sunlight from the street. The outrage subsequently led to the restriction of continuous vertical growth of tall buildings by the introduction of the 1916 zoning regulations by city authorities. An indication of the bulk of the building was the fact that it remained the largest office building (by internal volume) in the world until the Empire State Building of 1931.

    The through-block entrance lobby has a pink marble floor, sandy-coloured marble walls and a vaulted, coffered ceiling. The building with its 5,000 windows once housed the exclusive Bankers Club on its top three floors.








  4. #4
    Banned Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY
    Posts
    8,113

    Default

    It's also known as 120 Broadway. (A Silverstein Property).

  5. #5

    Default

    2 thomasjfletcher Thanks! Picture #3 is way interesting! I most like old pictures like that one. It's strange, but in different sources the building has different numbers of storeys, from 38 to 41. Which number is actual?

  6. #6

    Default

    g@tor---
    in reply to the earlier question, I'm guessing this building is clad in limestone. And as to the number of floors, I found this quote-

    "The Equitable Building is most important for the zoning law that resulted from its construction. Built for Equitable Life Insurance, the building is forty-one stories high with no setbacks. As a result, the building has 1,200,000 square feet of space, or 30 times its plot size! "
    source unknown unfortunately

    It's a big one!
    cheers
    Tom


  7. #7

    Default Equitable

    Wow! Unusual view. Thanks, Tom!
    I guess, misleads with number of floors can be because of a penthouse on the roof, yes?

  8. #8
    Senior Member Bob's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    Fairfax, VA
    Posts
    926

    Default

    Always liked this building. Question, though: is it still used by "Equitable"? I recall there is a skyscraper uptown that was built in the early 80s and labeled, "Equitable."

  9. #9

  10. #10
    Senior Member Bob's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    Fairfax, VA
    Posts
    926

    Default

    This building is fantastic. Superior to that other "Equitable" building in midtown.

  11. #11
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    Australia
    Posts
    7,476

    Default

    The Equitable Building and the Birth of NYC Zoning Law

    by Curbed Staff


    [Advertisement for Equitable Life Assurance Society Building, 1875, The New York Times.]

    The building that changed New York City's zoning laws began with grand but completely unrelated aspirations. When it was constructed in 1870 from a design by Gilman & Kendall and George B. Post, the Equitable Life Assurance Agency headquarters at 120 Broadway was considered a major breakthrough in the development of the skyscraper because of its skeletal steel frame, lightweight fireproof construction, and passenger elevators, a first in an office building. And still that wasn't enough for Equitable's president, who revealed plans to demolish the building in 1909. He wanted a building that would "establish in the public mind" a stronger impression of the company and its operations, according to a Landmarks Preservation Commission report, and use further advances in skyscraper construction to create an iconic structure akin to Ernest Flagg's Singer Building, the tallest building in the world when it was completed in 1908.


    [The building in the 1870s, via the New York Public Library.]

    With this concept in mind, Equitable hired Daniel Burnham, considered the "father of city planning" and a major proponent of the Beaux Arts style, to design their new headquarters. Burnham was asked to come up with a tower that would not only exceed the height of the Singer Building, but also exceed the proposed heights of the yet-to-be-built Metropolitan Life Tower (1909) and Woolworth Building (1913). However, Burnham's plans never came to fruition. On January 9, 1912, the building lauded as the "city's first skyscraper" was destroyed by a fire that couldn't be properly contained due to the freezing weather. "[Ice] settled over the building in a gleaming sheath of white that made the fire a wonderful thing to see," the Times wrote. "Ice converted the ruined building into a fantastic palace, with the rainbows arching at every turn as the sunlight filtered through the spray and smoke." Six men perished within this "fireproof" building. Although the building was decimated, Equitable remained afloat because their records were stored off-site and their vault survived the blaze.

    After the fire, Equitable's president was wary of erecting a tower that could succumb to a similar fate and vowed never to undertake an extravagant building project again, so Burnham's plans were scrapped. Favoring a more economical approach, Equitable decided to design and build the largest building that could fit on the site to ensure the greatest profit from rentable space. Ernest R. Graham, who assisted with the 1893 World Columbian Exposition and the 1909 Plan of Chicago and had been Burnham's partner for over a decade, was chosen as architect. As the company wanted a building that emphasized stature and solidity, Graham's firm seemed a perfect choice; it had been lauded as effectively adapting the "Beaux-Arts classical styles to modern American buildings in a variant that has been called 'commercial classicism'" as well as, in the words of the NYC Landmarks Designation report, "using Beaux-Arts planning principles to adapt enormous new structures to the American city and to define or reduce the urban context around them."



    The building, designed by Graham in conjunction with his associate Peirce Anderson, was certainly in keeping with their established reputation of "reducing the urban context" as they created a building that would become notorious for its massive size. The 38-story steel-frame building rose straight up from the street lot-line without any setbacks, thus making it the largest office building in the world with 1,200,000 square feet of rentable office space and the capacity to hold a daytime population of 16,000 office workers. Graham produced a mammoth building with state-of-the-art elevators, heating and ventilation systems and advanced fireproof construction. The Equitable Building's 1914 brochure declared:

    "Equitable Building exhibits a felicitous combination of both utility and beauty. Economy has not encroached upon either external beauty or internal excellence. Its exterior is built of granite, brick and terra cotta in soft tones and is designed after the Italian Renaissance. In shape the Equitable Building simulates the letter H. Thus, its interior offices are interior in name only, and have nothing in common with the traditional darkness of average interiors. And the character of the construction throughout is as fine as mind and money can make it. It is beautiful, substantial and even luxurious, revealing fine craftsmanship in every detail of finish and design, and will rank as one of the really beautiful buildings on this continent."

    But the public did not feel similarly. In fact, disdain for the building began as soon as the initial plans were announced, as adjacent property owners began to fear that the new building would block sunlight from their offices. Fearful of the development, they presented two alternate proposals for the site—one for a public park and the other to subdivide the site into two smaller lots to facilitate the construction of smaller buildings. However, these alternatives never made it past the discussion phase, and the building was built as planned.



    Not surprisingly, it did not take long before the Equitable became the "poster building" for the perils of unregulated development. Prior to the construction of the Equitable Building, no municipal code governed the height or bulk of buildings. However, the emergence of steel-frame construction and elevators enabled buildings to be built taller and larger, creating buildings of a size New York City had never experienced. There was discussion of regulating bulk and height long before the Equitable Building was constructed, but the building's completion pushed the issue to the forefront. Sentiments such as the one quoted here from the NYC Landmarks Designation Report were commonplace:

    "It was said that the Equitable blocked ventilation, dumped 13,000 users onto nearby sidewalks, choked the local transit facilities, and created potential problems for firemen. The Equitable's noon shadow, someone complained, enveloped six times its own area. Stretching almost a fifth of a mile, it cut off direct sunlight from the Broadway fronts of buildings as tall as 21 stories. The darkened area extended four blocks to the north. Most of the surrounding property owners claimed a loss of rental income because so much light and air had been deflected by the massive new building, and they filed for a reduction in the assessed valuations of their properties."

    Preceding the building's construction, hearings and meetings were convened with the goal of creating an enforceable regulation that would prevent a building such as the one Equitable created from occurring again. Two prominent architects of the time spearheaded the effort for building regulation—Ernest Flagg, the architect of the Singer Building, proposed lot area restrictions, and D. Knickerbocker Boyd, the president of the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, proposed building set-backs to permit light and air. Ultimately, these proposals were incorporated into the landmark 1916 Building Zone Resolution, which enforced the construction of "stepped façade" towers in the city's business districts as well as the three- to six-story residential buildings found throughout New York City.

    The 1916 Building Zone Resolution was the first comprehensive zoning regulation of its kind, and much like any New York City endeavor, it set the benchmark for other cities. Nationally, it set the precedent for the 1924 Standard State Zoning Enabling Act, which laid the basic foundation for planning and zoning within the United States. The Equitable Building, which was granted landmark status in 1996, will forever be the symbol of the results of unregulated building construction. Yet with all of the monstrous and ill-fitting high-rises that have been erected since zoning regulations have been in place, perhaps one of these will be the catalyst for the next phase of zoning and development controls—just as the Equitable Building was nearly 100 years ago.

    Lisa Santoro

    Further Reading:
    Consumed in Fire, Cloaked in Ice [City Room]
    About New York City Zoning [Department of City Planning]
    The Old Equitable Building [theoldequitablebuilding.blogspot.com]
    Report: The Equitable Building [LPC]
    Equitable Building [nyc-architecture.com]

    http://ny.curbed.com/index.php?page=2

  12. #12
    Fearless Photog RoldanTTLB's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Broomfield, CO
    Posts
    2,910

    Default

    What an excellent opportunity to post these photos. Also, to the posters from so many years ago, it's mostly brick.




  13. #13

    Default

    I probably walked past this building weekly for 25 years - daily for maybe 10 of them, and am embarrassed to say I had no idea it had such a rich and distinguished history. Thanks the bump and to all for the posts.

  14. #14
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    Australia
    Posts
    7,476

    Default

    Inside the Building That Changed New York City's Zoning Laws

    by Evan Bindelglass


    All photos by Evan Bindelglass

    So many skyscrapers, in New York City and beyond, owe a major part of their design to one building in Lower Manhattan. That building is the Equitable Building at 120 Broadway. Completed in 1915 and designed by Ernest Graham, its 40 floors cover the entire block and cast a shadow one-fifth of a mile long and seven acres in size. To say that didn't go over well is an understatement. It's why New York has zoning laws, and why towers such as the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building were required to have the setbacks that make them that so dramatic.



    The Equitable Life Insurance Company is now the AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company and no longer based downtown, or even in the AXA Equitable Center on 7th Avenue, but the Equitable Building still stands, with grand architecture, an ornate lobby, and unique views of the area. As part of their Room at the Top series (which previously visited Art Deco One Wall Street), Landmark Branding and nAscent Art recently led a tour of the building, ending at the 37th floor offices of Strategies for Wealth. Their windows provide a unique perspective of the skybridge at the Trinity Buildings (one of a dwindling number of skybridges in the city), an up close and personal perspective of the pyramid atop 14 Wall Street, and a great look at the less frequently photographed side of Cass Gilbert's 90 West Street.


    90 West Street


    Trinity Buildings skybridge


    West Street


    Equitable Building detail


    Equitable Building lobby



    More Pics at Curbed

  15. #15

    Default

    Does it really cost that much to replicate a building like this in modern-day?

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. 30 Rockefeller Center - GE Building / former RCA Building - by Raymond Hood
    By ddny in forum New York Skyscrapers and Architecture
    Replies: 71
    Last Post: July 23rd, 2015, 11:04 PM
  2. Big building in Bronx vs. small building in Manhattan
    By KEZ5 in forum Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, and SI Real Estate
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: February 4th, 2010, 10:12 PM
  3. Luxury Building - Boerum Hill & Park Slope - does anyone know what building this is?
    By lllggg in forum Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, and SI Real Estate
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: July 11th, 2007, 11:49 PM
  4. About the speed of building and building fast
    By tonyafc in forum New York Skyscrapers and Architecture
    Replies: 8
    Last Post: September 17th, 2006, 01:26 PM

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  


Google+ - Facebook - Twitter - Meetup

Edward's photos on Flickr - Wired New York on Flickr - In Queens - In Red Hook - Bryant Park - SQL Backup Software