Built in 1952 as the headquarters for the Lever Company, a powerhouse in the soap and detergent industry, this 24-story office building was the first all glass-and-stainless-steel construction on Park Ave. The successful soap makers had hired architect Gordon Bunshaft to design a building that would convey an image of sparkling cleanliness and modernity. Bunshaft's glass-walled office tower, now a standard, did just that, opening up the Manhattan skyline and marking a turning point in American architecture in the process. Bunshaft designed the small skyscraper with the narrow part of the green-tinted tower facing the street. Below it, perpendicular to the tower, he built a mezzanine level that floats on top of columns, allowing pedestrians to walk under underneath. To create outdoor public space and a more pleasant working environment, an open courtyard on the mezzanine level was carved out of the valuable real estate. The lobby sits under the mezzanine area and is the only part of structure enclosed in glass on the street level. In the late ‘90s, a much-deteriorated Lever House (water damage, rust, loss of most of the original-style of glass) was renovated by the SOM architectural firm and a sculpture garden with works by artist Isamu Naguchi was added. Around the same time, the lobby of Lever House was remodeled to include a public art space which features rotating exhibits of contemporary and modern art. While Lever House is still an office building, it is now as famous for its first-rate restaurant by the same name—one of New York’s top power-dining palaces.The Lobby
Much of the office building is not open to the public; however, the lobby houses an art gallery with rotating exhibitions of contemporary and modern art that are free and open to the public; there's also a Sculpture Garden that can be a quiet place to have lunch and view art, if you don't mind office workers running around on the first floor catwalk above you.
Last year, Dan Kois published a story about John Brophy, the Portlander behind a new form of karaoke in which your friends pick a song and spring it on you while you're onstage. Well, Kois has taken his discovery one step further, creating a venue where New Yorkers can try it. More »