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News June 2016

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LPC calendars Citicorp Center and St. Peter’s Church

June 25, 2016

With de Blasio administration efforts to rezone Midtown East still in play, it is welcome news that on May 10 the LPC calendared seven more buildings to be considered for landmark designation, bringing the total to 12. While no Modern sites were identified in the first group, the recent batch includes two stand-outs of late Modernism: the Citicorp Center (1974–1978; now known as 601 Lexington Ave) and the adjacent St. Peter’s Church (1977). Designed together, the two are grouped as one site for purposes of designation.

The tower was a collaboration of Hugh A. Stubbins, Jr. and Emery Roth & Sons; Stubbins and Edward Larrabee Barnes are credited with the design of the church. Vignelli Associates provided the interior design for the church. The project was welcomed by architectural critics upon its completion. Citicorp tower’s steeply angled roof and alternating ribbon windows make it one of the city’s most easily recognizable skyscrapers. The Citicorp project is also notable for its early attention to energy efficiency and early use of zoning incentives that provided for POPS (Privately Owned Public Spaces). The church’s dramatically sloping rooflines and stark granite exterior echo its taller neighbor. David Dunlop of the New York Times aptly described it as “New York’s most architecturally successful postwar sanctuary.”

When the news of the rezoning effort was first announced in 2012, the Historic Districts Council quickly took action and compiled a survey of buildings in the area that might be eligible for Individual Landmark designation. They counted 31 sites – eight of which are Modern, although one of them, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hoffman Auto Showroom, was destroyed. DOCOMOMO NY/Tri-State’s early Midtown Modern survey is being updated to serve as a resource for establishing the importance of the mid-century skyscraper in Midtown as the rezoning and designation processes move forward.