At the time of its construction, this steel and glass prism was the only corporate building among the avenue's masonry residential structures. It marked the emergence of corporate Park Avenue North. The building's pared-down functionalist form--its rejection of historical associations in favor of simple geometries and repetitive modules of mass produced components--is typical of the International Style. It provided a slick new image for the Lever Soap Company.

With its contemporary, the UN Secretariat Building, this was the first curtain wall structure in the city. Unlike the UN, however, Lever House was built for a private corporation. It reflects a shift from the typically public, social uses of the International Style in Europe to corporate modernism in the United States. Architecturally and programmatically, it marks a decisive turning point.

Furthermore, rather than occupying the full lot and setting back in accordance with zoning code, the narrow office tower uses on 25 percent of the available zoning envelope and provides open public space on part of the lot. This public gesture occurs often in early corportate projects, but it is rarely seen today.

<---back

Lever House
390 Park Avenue, Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill [1948-52]