Lever House

Lever House
Lever House
Lever House
  • Client Lever Brothers Company
  • Expertise Adaptive Reuse, Commercial
  • Region North America
  • Location New York, New York, United States

A touchstone for subsequent generations of architects, it introduced the International Style to America and transformed the design of urban towers around the world.

Project Facts
  • Completion Year 1952
  • Size Site Area: 34,830 feet Building Height: 307 feet Number of Stories: 21 Building Gross Area: 289,584 square feet
  • Awards
    1951, Oscar Dooley Award, University of Miami 1958, National Plant America Award, American Association of Nurserymen 1954, Best Building Award, Fifth Avenue Association 1952, Office of the Year Award, Administrative Management Magazine 1952, First Honor Award, American Institute of Architects (AIA) 1980, National 25 Year Award, American Institute of Architects (AIA) 1952, Gold Medal, Architectural League of New York 1982, Landmark Designation, Landmarks Preservation Commission
  • Collaborators
    Jaros Baum & Bolles Raymond Loewy Associates Weiskopf & Pickworth
Project Facts
  • Completion Year 1952
  • Size Site Area: 34,830 feet Building Height: 307 feet Number of Stories: 21 Building Gross Area: 289,584 square feet
  • Awards
    1951, Oscar Dooley Award, University of Miami 1958, National Plant America Award, American Association of Nurserymen 1954, Best Building Award, Fifth Avenue Association 1952, Office of the Year Award, Administrative Management Magazine 1952, First Honor Award, American Institute of Architects (AIA) 1980, National 25 Year Award, American Institute of Architects (AIA) 1952, Gold Medal, Architectural League of New York 1982, Landmark Designation, Landmarks Preservation Commission
  • Collaborators
    Jaros Baum & Bolles Raymond Loewy Associates Weiskopf & Pickworth

Creating an icon of modernism

Commercial office design was forever changed with Lever House’s completion in 1952. The building’s influence would be felt throughout New York and virtually every major American city. Few had seen anything like it: in a city characterized by masonry and brick, the blue-green glass and stainless steel facade completely reimagined how an office building could look and feel. By day, the facade shined in the sun, and by night, the building beamed like a lantern, offering views to the light-filled offices inside. With its two intersecting masses – a two-story horizontal base with a large public plaza, and a 22-floor vertical slab set perpendicular to Park Avenue – SOM’s design also created a new relationship between the office building and the public realm.

Within a decade of its construction, the initial enthusiasm for Lever House gave way to a universal recognition of its pivotal importance to American architecture. The building’s design inspired a new wave of International Style office construction that transformed the character of Park Avenue and reshaped downtowns across the United States. In 1982, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated Lever House as the city’s first Modernist landmark.

It gave architectural expression to an age just as the age was being born.


Upgrades for an enduring legacy

By the 1990s, harsh weather conditions and the limitations of midcentury materials had dimmed the shine of Lever House’s famed curtain wall. Water had seeped in behind the steel mullions, causing the carbon steel within the glazing pockets to rust and expand. This corrosion bowed the horizontal mullions and broke most of the spandrel glass panels. Only one percent of the original glass remained intact.

In 2001, SOM – now equipped with five decades of expertise in high-performance facade design technology – returned to reestablish Lever House’s original grandeur. Working closely with the Landmarks Preservation Commission, SOM restored the building while maintaining the integrity of the original design. The new facade, with concealed aluminum glazing channels, stainless steel mullions and caps, and new panes of heat-strengthened PPG solex glass, is designed to sustain the 20th-century icon through the 21st century.

Today, SOM continues to work with the building’s owners restoring and maintaining this landmark structure. Current projects include the restoration of the exterior plaza, the installation of new signage, and the replacement of the ground-floor storefront facade.

Lever House
Lever House © Florian Holzherr
Lever House
Lever House © Florian Holzherr