400 Park Avenue
400 Park Avenue
Emery Roth, 1955
400 Park Avenue is a 21-story office building designed in 1955 by the firm of Emery Roth and Sons for City Bank Farmers Trust. The building is part of an important period in the history of New York City: the post-World War II wave of office building construction that would transform Park Avenue into the architectural icon of American corporate Modernism that is known and admired worldwide.
The building’s architecture is significant in that it follows the massing dictated by the 1916 zoning code (an old law by 1955) using the language of modern architecture: the combination of these two characteristics gives this building – and others like it – its appeal and its significance. Emery Roth and Sons’s 1948 design of the Look Building was clearly indebted to streamlined Moderne, but in the mid-1950s, after SOM’s design of Lever House, Emery Roth & Sons embraced the possibilities of the curtain wall and at, 400 Park, developed a tight vertical grid well suited to accommodate the mandated setbacks. The strength of the design depends on its clarity and the fact that, with the help of other similar commercial buildings, it created a coherent urban environment with a strong sense of place.
While architects favored the tower scheme for corporate headquarters, they used the 1916 zoning setback scheme for most speculative office buildings. Before the war, setback loft buildings had lined the streets of the Garment District to create a dense urban environment of masonry buildings. After World War II, architects continued to use the 1916 setbacks, discovering their potential for creating modern buildings with strong, clear, abstract forms using modularity and new materials.
400 Park Avenue is significant for the quality of its design, using the new language of the glass and aluminum curtain wall within the envelope of the 1916 zoning code. It is also significant as the work of a notable architectural firm, Emery Roth and Sons, which played an important role in the development of American modernism in the post World War II period, in particular in Midtown. We recommend it for consideration as an individual landmark, with a request that it be considered along with its neighbor, 410 Park Avenue, with which it forms a highly significant grouping.