The Lever House

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The Lever House was designed by Gordon Bunshaft for the architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and completed in 1952.  It was built as the international headquarters for Lever Brothers Company, a manufacturer of commercial soaps and detergents.  

  

Lever House is situated on the west side of Park Avenue between East 53rd and East 54th Streets and is a 24 story glass and stainless steel clad office building composed of a vertical slab rising, and seeming to float, above a horizontal base.  It was the first New York real estate venture to take advantage of a zoning provision that permitted a building to rise with no setbacks provided that the building covered only 25 percent of the lot.    

  

Lever House introduced many innovations into skyscraper designs, most notably was the use of glass covering almost the entire façade.  It also pioneered the concept of opening a portion of the ground floor to public use and of providing an open courtyard at its base.  It was the first skyscraper of its kind on Park Avenue, and the second curtain wall structure in New York City, after the Secretariat Building at the United Nations Headquarters.  

  

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated Lever House as an official landmark in 1982, observing a requirement that a building must have existed for 30 years.  The landmark designation of November 9, 1982 stated:  ?Lever House has a special character, special historical and aesthetic interest and value as part of the development, heritage, and cultural characteristic of New York City?.it is among the first, as well as the most famous, corporate expressions of the modern International Style in postwar America?.is widely recognized as a key monument in the evolution of the International Style and has assumed an important role in the literature of modern architecture, and that Lever House remains outstanding for its spatial clarity, scale, and beauty of form.?  

  

By the mid-1990s, however, only one percent of the original glass remained leaving the once glimmering curtain wall a patchwork of mismatched greenish glass.  In September 1997, Unilever, Lever Brother's parent company, announced it was moving its Lever Brothers division to Greenwich, Connecticut.  The building was then purchased by RFR Holding LLC, led by real estate developers Aby Rosen and Michael Fuchs, who began a  capital improvement program to restore the building?s curtain wall, stainless steel mullions, and public spaces.   

  

The renovation project included the addition of marble benches designed by sculptor Isamu Noguchi for the building's north and south plazas, which were elements in Bunshaft?s original 1952 plans for Lever House but were never realized. Since 2003, Lever House is also home to the Lever House Restaurant, which won New York Magazine's Best Service award in 2004.  Since the completion of the Lever House renovation, the building's outdoor plaza and glass-enclosed lobby have been used as an exhibition area for the ambitious and contemporary Lever House Art Collection, which presents changing installations of artworks commissioned especia