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News November 2012

Marine Midland Bank Proposed to Become Newest Modern Landmark in NYC

November 20, 2012

The office tower at 140 Broadway, designed by Gordon Bunshaft of SOM, is being placed on the NYC Landmark Preservation Commission’s calendar. Completed in 1967 for the New York office of Marine Midland Bank, the building is noted for its minimalist curtain wall of matte-finished black anodized aluminum, which rises 51 stories without setbacks. Its location facing Zuccotti Park across Broadway and its generous setbacks from the street heighten the drama of its trapezoidal geometry.

The plaza afforded by this setback, originally paved with travertine, is home to the building’s most widely recognized feature—the giant red pierced cube by Isamu Noguchi. Flowing completely around the slender shaft, this paved area provides a key link in a chain of open spaces linking Chase Plaza to the World Trade Center district. As part of this sequence, its dark, flush curtain wall presents a dramatic counterpoint to the more structurally expressive, silver aluminum-clad Chase tower.

Originally developed and owned by Harry Helmsley, with partners, the building was acquired by Silverstein Properties with the Morgan Stanley Real Estate Fund in 1998, and has been known in recent years as the headquarters of HSBC Bank USA. While some unfortunate modifications have been made to the plaza paving and the revolving door entrances, they are minor in the context of the tower as a whole and perhaps could be rectified in the future.

The 140 Broadway tower was much praised when it was completed. In The New York Times, Ada Louise Huxtable wrote, approvingly, that the building was clearly “a commercial building, not a monument,” and she lauded its walls “reduced to gossamer minimums of shining, thin material, hung on a frame of extraordinary strength through superb contemporary technology.” A cover feature in Architectural Forum led off by saying the building “had the well-groomed look of a New York banker—and the same financial logic” and concluded: “SOM has produced a work that ranks with the firm’s earlier corporate showplaces—Lever House, Union Carbide, Chase Manhattan, and Pepsi-Cola—as one of the handsomest office buildings in the U.S.A.”

— John Morris Dixon

Top photo by Jan Martin; bottom by Omar Maya