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Balance of Power

Marine Midland Building with Isamu Noguchi's Red Cube, October 1967, © Ezra Stoller
One of the most beautiful works of minimalist modern architecture in New York City.  The Marine Midland Building was designed by Gordon Bunshaft, the master architect of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, who designed many of the New York’s most famous Modernist skyscrapers like Lever House, Union Carbide Building and Chase Manhattan Bank Building. Bunshaft designed the Marine Midland was considered as one of the most pure elements of the International Style Modernist of late 1960’s, but with its skyscraper, Bunshaft created a personal style, that were different as his past works. The new Bunshaft’s style is more minimalist, more futurist, more public and more spectacular, with the inclusion of modernist sculptures in the plaza. The Marine Midland start this new age in the work of Bunshaft that was culminated in early 1970’s with buildings like Grace Building and Solow Buildings were changed the aluminum for travertine marble in its facades.

Facade of the Marine Midland Building with Woolworth Building in the background, April 1967, © J. Alex Langley Architectural Record

The Marine Midland were built in Lower Manhattan when the Financial District were begun to experiment a urban renewal to find the revitalization of the World’s financial capital that was begun with the construction of Chase Manhattan Bank Building in 1957-61 and culminated with the Twin Towers of World Trade Center (1966-1976). The Marine Midland was built between 1965 and 1967 on a crucial moment on the life of Financial District. When the 54-story building were under construction in 1966, construction work begun for the 110-story, twin-towered World Trade Center, two blocks to the west and when the Marine Midland were completed, in 1967, the demolition of the old 47-story 1907 Renaissance style Singer tower were begun for make way to 55-story One Liberty Plaza.

Marine Midland Building © Earth in Pictures

The Marine Midland was conceived in early 1960’s as a important part of the revitalization of the Financial District. The project from 140 Broadway Building (also the building is known) were announced for first time in 1961 shortly after the success opening of Chase Manhattan Bank Building.

According with architect Robert A.M. Stern (1997):

“In 1991 plans were announced for 140 Broadway, a new building that would rival Chase in the quality of its architectural and urban design. Also know as the Marine Midland Building, 140 Broadway (1967) was designed by Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. The first scheme, initially developed by Erwin Wolfson shortly before his death, called for a thirty-two-story tower similar to the Chase Bank in design, with two plazas to break up and ‘aerate’ the lower Broadway canyon. This scheme was to have masonry sunshades projecting beyond the floor slab. When the project was taken over by Harry Hemsley at the invitation of Carl Morse, the builder, it was redesigned. As it evolved, the fifty-two-story tower slab became an essay in curtain-wall minimalism, rising without setbacks from its slightly trapezoidal site, bounded by Broadway, Liberty; Nassau and Cedar streets. One of first tall buildings built under the 1961 zoning ordinance, it replaced York & Sawyer’s Guaranty Trust Company Building of 1913” (Stern, Robert A.M., Mellins, Thomas. Fishman, David. New York 1960. Architecture and urbanism between the Second World War and the Bicentennial. New York. The Monacelli Press. Second Edition. 1997. Page 179).

Marine Midland Building, April 1968 © Ezra Stoller