Built to accommodate administrative offices of the municipal government,
this highly symbolic building is also highly functional.
In designing this building, the architects faced a number of urbanistic
and technical challenges. They had to adapt the structure to an irregular
site, a sharp drop in elevation, and a subterranean subway
station. The building's U-shaped plan is arranged so as to avoid
overwhelming City Hall while embracing the city with its form.
The structure straddles a city street, using air rights to
add additional office space above.
Basing the design on their competition entry for Grand Central Station, McKim Mead and White interpreted New York City's greatest civic skyscraper in an eclectic fashion incorporating elements from from Roman Imperial, Italian Renaissance and French Renaissance architecture. The tripartite facade organization echoes that of a classical column. An arcaded loggia forms a triumphal arch marking the terminal point of Chambers Street. Above the ground floor colonnade, sculptural reliefs emphasize civic virtues: Progress, Civic Duty, Guidance and Executive Power, Civic Pride and Prudence. Emblems of municipal departments adorn panels between the second floor windows. Capping the central tower is Adolf Weinmans' sculpture entitled "Civic Fame."