SOM in the Press

A Closer Look: 510 Fifth Avenue Renovation

Photo © Eduard Hueber

Source: Architectural Record

Designed by Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), the Manufacturers Hanover Trust building's glass curtain wall and luminous interiors communicated a new transparency for financial institutions when completed in 1954. But the building that attracted 15,000 visitors on its opening day made less auspicious headlines in October 2010 when exiting tenants removed its site-specific Harry Bertoia sculptural screen and mobile. The change was just the latest in a long list of modifications that diminished 510 Fifth Avenue's original design. Flanked by two popular retail corridors—the established Flagship Row between 49th and 59th Streets and the Bryant Park area at 42nd Street—the address on the corner of West 43rd Street had also fallen out of favor among investors when Vornado Realty Trust acquired it three years ago.

Working with SOM, the new owners discovered that the key to the building's future lay in its past. Its original commissioner, Hap C. Flanigan, foresaw a need for adaptive architecture. “He talked about how many branch banks failed during the Depression,” says SOM design partner Roger Duffy. “He didn't want to make the building overly specific.”

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