By Phyllis Lambert; Foreword by Barry Bergdoll
Winner of the 2013 American Publishers Awards for Professional and Scholarly Excellence (PROSE), in the Architecture & Urban Planning category
Winner of the 2013 New York City Book Awards given by the New York Society Library
"Building Seagram . . . is something of a joint biography: a history of this stately Park Avenue landmark that many consider the pinnacle of postwar architecture in New York, rendered through the lens of her vivid memories of its invention and of her privileged early years as the daughter of the liquor baron Samuel Bronfman, who founded the Seagram distilling empire. The book reveals many new details about a building that remains among the most studied of the modern era."—Mark Lamster, New York Times
"Sumptuous. . . . No one could tell the history of the most seminal office building of the 20th century as well as Lambert. . . . An exemplary architectural monograph."—Dietrich Neumann, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians
The Seagram building rises over New York’s Park Avenue, seeming to float above the street with perfect lines of bronze and glass. Considered one of the greatest icons of twentieth-century architecture, the building was commissioned by Samuel Bronfman, founder of the Canadian distillery dynasty Seagram. Bronfman’s daughter Phyllis Lambert was twenty-seven years old when she took over the search for an architect and chose Mies van der Rohe (1886–1969), a pioneering modern master of what he termed “skin and bones” architecture. Mies, who designed the elegant, deceptively simple thirty-eight-story tower along with Philip Johnson (1906–2005), emphasized the beauty of structure and fine materials, and set the building back from the avenue, creating an urban oasis with the building’s plaza. Through her choice, Lambert established her role as a leading architectural patron and singlehandedly changed the face of American urban architecture.
Building Seagram is a comprehensive personal and scholarly history of a major building and its architectural, cultural, and urban legacies. Lambert makes use of previously unpublished personal archives, company correspondence, and photographs to tell an insider’s view of the debates, resolutions, and unknown dramas of the building’s construction, as well as its crucial role in the history of modern art and architectural culture.
Phyllis Lambert is founding director of the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal. A licensed architect, she has contributed essays to numerous books and is the subject of the 2007 documentary film Citizen Lambert: Joan of Architecture. Barry Bergdoll is professor of architectural history in the department of art history and archaeology at Columbia University and the Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
52 color + 141 b/w illustrations
Yale University Press
11.7 x 10.3 x 1.1 inches
Modernism, American Architecture