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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Book of the Moment: Building Seagram

The importance of Mies van der Rohe's Seagram Building (1958) to Manhattan, modern architecture and the 20th century city is undeniable. So the upcoming release of Phyllis Lambert's Building Seagram from Yale University Press (Spring 2013) is a highly anticipated one.

[Photo on right: Philip Johnson, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Phyllis Lambert in front of an image of the model for the Seagram building, New York, 1955. Photographer unknown. Fonds Phyllis Lambert, Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal. © United Press International. | photo source]

From the CCA:
Lambert was a 27-year-old artist living in Paris when her father Samuel Bronfman, founder of the Seagram distillery, asked her to take over the search for an architect to design his company’s headquarters in New York. Lambert in turn made the cogent decision to commission the pioneering modern master Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969), in collaboration with Philip Johnson (1906-2005). The resulting Seagram Building, completed in 1958, is an indisputable icon of twentieth-century architecture, 38 stories of elegant bronze and glass set back from New York City’s Park Avenue. In her role as patron, and Director of Planning for the project, Lambert had singlehandedly changed the face of American urban architecture. "Building Seagram represents what has always been the focus of my practice: architecture as a major socio-economic manifestation in society," explained Lambert.

The culmination of more than a decade of research by Lambert, Building Seagram tells the story not just of this important building, but of the culture of post-WWII design, including the significant part corporate patronage played in the era’s real estate development, and of the project’s substantial role in shaping landmark legislation and zoning laws in New York City. Lambert provides an unprecedented personal history of her experience managing the project, as well as of the working relationship between van der Rohe and Johnson and Johnson’s under- recognized contributions to lighting design, and offers a detailed scholarly assessment of the design and construction process and the building’s cultural legacy.

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