The Seagram Building, New York, USA

The Seagram Building is located in Midtown Manhattan at the heart of New York City. It is one of the most commonly cited examples of corporate modernism in architecture and it is regarded as an exceptional example of functional aesthetics.


The Seagram Building was designed by the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe with the assistance of Philip Johnson. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was a celebrated architect throughout the mid-20th century and is most well-noted for his representations of Classical and Gothic architecture through his work. As he developed, he began to use more modern materials and aesthetics. This shift in aesthetics was a major factor in his design of the Seagram Building.

Design and Construction

Rohe's design was meant to bring out the character of what goes into the creation of a building. Standard aesthetic practices at that time forced architects to manufacture ornamental extras for their buildings in an attempt to make them look more aesthetically pleasing. Rohe felt that the simple beauty of a large structural design was more than enough to please the eye of anyone. He designed the building in such a way as to give viewers the impression that they were looking at the pure functional utility of the building. This is one of the major reasons that the building is so often regarded as a masterpiece of functional aesthetics.

The building is built around a steel frame that uses large glass walls around the outside. The glass walls are non-structural and are hung from the frame itself. The original design called for the steel to be visible. However, American codes on building dictated that structural steel components needed to be covered by some sort of fireproof material. To give the illusion of structural steel, Rohe used 1500 tons of bronze to create bronze-toned I-beams.


The building was commissioned in the 1950s as the corporate headquarters of the distillers for Seagram's. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was the architect that was tapped for the design of the building. His previous works had dealt heavily with Classical architectural elements and he was interested in trying something bold and different. He envisioned a building that laid the industrial process bare and showed a building for the true components that comprised it. In short, he wanted to create a building that used the physical construction elements themselves to create an eye-catching and unique building. Rohe commissioned the aid of Philip Johnson to help him realise his goal with the Seagram Building. In the end, Rohe was able to come away with a 516 foot building that utilised the bare facade of physics and engineering to show what he called the inherent beauty of structure.

The finished building was 39 stories tall and has become one of the most widely cited masterpieces of Modern Architecture. Its focus on functionality over ornamentation has made it the subject of much study and scrutiny over the years.

Current Use

The Seagram Building is currently an office building. It is owned by RFR Realty and is the home to a number of large businesses.