Why New York’s Seagram Building Stands the Test of Time
“The defining characteristic of this building is strength: it’s in the most unique location, and the feeling that you have when you go in and out of the building is that you’re around the best, the brightest and the most powerful in the world.”
For Matthew Astrachan, Vice Chairman and Licensed Real Estate Broker at JLL’s Brokerage in New York, 375 Park Avenue, which is better known as the Seagram Building, is a leading light among New York’s many famous buildings.
Opened in 1958, the 38 floor building cost more than $36 million to construct and was heralded as a leading architectural showpiece of the time. Commissioned by the prestigious Seagram Liquor Company — a famous Canadian alcohol maker — the building went on to be the family business’s American headquarters. With its floor to ceiling glass and bronze facade, open entranceway, plaza and travertine interiors all designed in perfect proportions, architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and designer Philip Johnson created a building that was at once sophisticated and demanding, showing off the company’s power in style.
“It was constructed at the time for a global and very powerful corporation and what made it stand out is the detail and expense that went into it, compared to others of the same era. They put the money in at the start and it’s stood the test of time,” says Astrachan.
Outside of its prestigious location and high quality build, it was the expansive plaza at the foot of the building — complete with fountains and seating areas — that made it so respected. As a prime property spot in bustling New York City its owners could have decided to make the most of all of the space available to them. By, instead, setting the building back from the main street it gained its place in the history books, even prompting New York’s governing body to rethink zoning laws to encourage building designers to consider of the importance of integrating public spaces into their plans.
“It’s a very bustling part of the city but they managed to create a somewhat tranquil place to sit and spend a few minutes. In an urban environment such as this, it is truly unparalleled and you don’t feel you’re surrounded by concrete. It was very far ahead of its time, which is why today it remains timeless,” says Astrachan.
Made an ‘Official City Landmark’ in 1970, the Seagram Building has inspired numerous skyscrapers since, and was even named the millennium’s most important building by Herbert Muschamp, the architecture critic of the New York Times. It has also had its time in the limelight, featuring in films such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s in 1961 and Scrooged in 1988.
Today, it is owned by Aby Rosen’s RFR Holding LLC and features a revolving art collection and the best and most beautiful restaurants in New York City having the rare distinction of being designated an interior landmark. And as the tastes and demands of the city around it changes, the Seagram building is also moving with the times. A renovation in 2014 saw the addition of an executive lounge and terrace on the 11th floor, open exclusively to tenants who are paying upwards of $170/square foot for space.
For a born and bred New Yorker like Astrachan, it’s a building that embodies and reflects the energy, drive and power of the city around it as much today as it did 50 years ago. “No matter how much this city changes, or how many new trendy areas emerge, this holds its own. You only need to say the words, ‘375 Park’ and everyone knows what you’re talking about. That’s what makes it so special,” he concludes.