520 Madison Avenue, Swanke Hayden Connell [1981]

This high-rise takes the form of a typical rectangular tower although here it has been sheathed in an expensive, polished red granite skin. It was designed for offices of the Continental Illinois Center with ground-level retail stores along Madison Avenue. Unlike the usual slab building, it flares out at the bottom and curves toward the sidewalk. Although unusual, its form is not innovative. It recalls two earlier New York office towers-- the W. R. Grace and Company headquarters on 42nd Street and 9 West 57th Street -- both designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. The sloping form of the base somewhat lessens the impact of its height in an attempt by the architects to create a welcoming gesture to pedestrians and employees of the offices above. Despite its uncommon form, it is a satisfactory, but not outstanding product of the 1980s boom in commercial construction.