August 13th, 2014, 7:17 pm
On September 2, 2014, the Municipal Art Society will be relocating from our current offices in the Steinway Building on 57th Street to 488 Madison Avenue, the landmarked Look Building.
From saving Grand Central to winning passage of New York City’s Landmarks Law, MAS has been a champion for the protection of New York’s significant historic buildings throughout our 120-year history. The Look Building will be a fitting home for MAS, with its esteemed history and status as a New York Landmark, while allowing for a more open, collaborative and modern office environment.
The Villard Houses and Steinway Hall
For almost 30 years MAS was headquartered at the Villard Houses, built in 1886 and designed by architect Stanford White of McKim, Mead & White.
The palazzo-style brownstone building, originally built as six townhouses, was designated as a New York City Landmark in 1968. In 2010, MAS moved to Steinway Hall, home of the piano manufacturing firm Steinway & Sons. Built in 1925 and designed by Warren & Wetmore, Steinway Hall was designated as a New York City Landmark in 2001.
MAS’s New Home
The 21-story Look Building, built in 1950, is exemplary of a minimalist aesthetic popular in architecture at the time. The building is most notable for its use of industrial materials to create sleek, setback elevations with rounded edges and its unique facades of alternating layers of ribbon-like windows and glazed white brick..
Two second-generation, family-run businesses, the developers Uris Brothers and architects Emery Roth & Sons, successfully speculated on the new building’s success. Richard Roth, the lead architect, designed the building to be stylish, profitable and practical. The building’s style suggests that Roth drew inspiration from the 1931 Starrett-Lehigh Building and the 1947 Universal Pictures Building, both in Manhattan. Roth was also influenced by architect Erich Mendelsohn, a German Expressionist.The building was named for Look magazine, the principal tenant upon completion. Once one of the most widely-read magazines in the day, Look remained at this location until 1971, when it ceased publication. Other notable past tenants include Esquire, Pocket Books, music publishers Witmark & Sons, and industrial designer Raymond Loewy.
In 1998, the Look Building underwent restoration by architects Hardy Holzman & Pfieffer. MAS organized a exhibition, New Life for a Modern Monument: A Salute to 488 Madison Avenue, which, at the time was just kitty-corner to MAS’s headquarters at 457 Madison Avenue. MAS’s event brochure commended the restoration stating that it “shows how successfully the best postwar buildings can be updated, rewarding investors and delighting passerby.” Ned Kaufman, an associate director of MAS at the time and a leading advocate of the preservation of modern architecture, presciently said the renovation would be ”a very valuable and important model.”
In 2004, the Look Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and was named a New York City Landmark in 2010.
Our mailing address is now:
Municipal Art Society
488 Madison Avenue, Suite 1900
New York, NY 10022
Our email addresses, phone and fax numbers remain the same. Call (212) 935-3960 or send an email to info (at) mas.org if you have any questions.