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DOCOMOMO US & NY respond to 270 Park Avenue

May 26, 2018

As JPMorgan Chase and the City of New York announce plans to demolish and replace 270 Park Avenue, formerly the Union Carbide building, DOCOMOMO US and DOCOMOMO New York/Tri-State have joined forces to advocate for this iconic example of corporate Modernism.

On February 21 it was announced that the JPMorgan Chase tower at 270 Park Avenue, designed by the pioneering woman architect Natalie de Blois and Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) and built from 1958-60, would be the first major project of the City’s Midtown East rezoning. The news was announced by the New York Times and at first included no mention of the iconic building or the designers that created it (the article has since been edited).

DOCOMOMO New York/Tri-State led the request for evaluation of 270 Park Avenue as early as February 2012 and received confirmation from the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2013 that Union Carbide (270 Park Avenue) was in the top tier of “properties [that] may merit designation” in the Midtown East rezoning area. Other projects in this top tier include the Universal Pictures Building (445 Park Avenue), Girl Scouts Building (830 Third Avenue), and the United States Post Office, Franklin D. Roosevelt Station (909 Third Avenue). All of which, it should be noted, have still not been calendared for designation, five years later.

On February 23, DOCOMOMO US and DOCOMOMO US New York/Tri-state submitted a joint letter to the Landmarks Preservation Commission asking it again to consider the building for designation. Docomomo has not yet received a response. DOCOMOMO will continue to advocate for the preservation and designation of 270 Park Avenue and encourages your support of this effort.

Click here to read the joint DOCOMOMO letter (PDF)

UPDATE 5/28/18: In a letter dated March 9, outgoing LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan responded, stating that the building “is not a priority due to the lack of broader stakeholder support,” among other up-for-debate reasons. Read the letter(We are experiencing some temporary issues with uploads to our website. This link will take you to our recent e-news webpage where you can view and download the Commissioner’s letter.)

Currently, DOCOMOMO US and DOCOMOMO NY/Tri-State are continuing to collaborate with other organizations to suggest alternatives that would meet JPMorgan Chase’s development objectives without destroying the undesignated landmark structure on Park Ave.

Related articles:

Ivan Pereira, “JPMorgan Chase plans to replace headquarters in midtown east,” AM New York: February 22, 2018

Jeffrey Lieber, “What We Will Lose When the Union Carbide Building Falls,” The New York Times: March 1, 2018

Jonathan Hilburg, “Preservation groups protest Union Carbide demolition and appeal for its landmarking,” The Architect’s Newspaper: February 27, 2018

SOM Corporate Landmark 270 Park, by Gordon Bunshaft and Natalie de Blois, Threatened With Demolition,” Architectural Record Online: February 27, 2018

Alexandra Lange, “Why SOM’s modernist Union Carbide building is worth saving,” February 22, 2018

Justin Davidson, “The Death of a Skyscraper,” New York Magazine: February 22, 2018

Karrie Jacobs, “A Radical Proposal to Save the Union Carbide Building,” ARCHITECT, April 9, 2018

Ada Louise Huxtable, “The Significance of our new skyscrapers,” The New York Times: October 30, 1960 (PDF)

Ada Louise Huxtable, “Park Avenue School of Architecture,” The New York Times: December 15, 1957 (PDF)

Union Carbide Building at 270 Park Ave in 1961. Photo: Ezra Stoller/ESTO.
Photo: Nina Rappaport.