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Look Building designated a NYC landmark

August 22, 2010

On July 27, the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously approved Manhattan’s Look Building for landmark status. The 21-story building is located at 488 Madison Avenue and covers the block between East 51st and East 52nd Streets. Designed by Emery Roth & Sons and completed in 1950, the Look Building is defined by a stepped profile and white brick bands that alternate with metal-framed ribbon windows. Its emphatically horizontal composition, together with its rounded corners, recalls the more industrial Starrett-Lehigh Building (Cory & Cory, 1932) at West 26th Street. Although the building housed multiple tenants, it took its name from one of the most prominent, Look magazine, a large-format publication known for its general interest subjects and extensive photographic layouts. Architect Roth had earned considerable acclaim for his earlier, classically inspired apartment houses on Central Park West, the Beresford (1929) and San Remo (1930), but by mid-century, the firm’s work became synonymous with the corporate building that grew to define Madison Avenue.

The success of the Look Building was followed with a number of new buildings along the Avenue, and with numerous collaborative efforts with some of the country’s leading architects, such as the Pan Am Building (with Walter Gropius, 1963) and the World Trade Center (with Minoru Yamasaki, 1972). Robert A.M. Stern, writing in New York 1960, praised the Look Building: “Perhaps the firm’s best postwar work, it not only defined the aesthetics and economics of market-rate office-building design, but established the Roths, and the building’s developers, Percy and Harold Uris, as the premier exponents of the new approach.” The building’s exterior was renovated 1995-1998. The two-story retail base is non-historic, dating from a 1980s remodeling, but its period-appropriate redesign belies this fact. DOCOMOMO New York/Tri-State testified in support of the designation at the November 2009 hearing and is pleased with the Commission’s unanimous decision to protect another building of the Modern movement. Read the full designation report on the Commission’s website.

K. Randall
K. Randall
K. Randall