December 2017
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MAS Position on 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza

MAS commends the Landmarks Preservation Commission for moving forward today with the designation of two worthy post-war historic resources, 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza and the Silver Towers complex. Both are modern sites that MAS has suggested for designation in the past, and we are pleased with the LPC’s attention to these two examples of post-war architecture and planning. We look forward to seeing the LPC consider more Modern buildings and sites for landmark designation in the near future.

1 Chase Manhattan Plaza’s completion in 1961 signified a new era for Lower Manhattan both historically and architecturally. Not long after the end of the war, development of New York’s business center was shifting from the earliest skyscraper district in Lower Manhattan to the blocks of Midtown. Lower Manhattan was seen as obsolete and part of the past, not the future, of New York until David Rockefeller’s insistence that his Chase company remain downtown. The construction of this building helped to spur the revival, redevelopment, and reuse of the neighborhood that continued throughout the remaining decades of the twentieth century.

Architecturally, the development of this post-war skyscraper set the stage for later downtown building complexes, including the World Trade Center site. An excellent example of the International style and an illustration of typical post-war urban planning, the building required the demapping of Cedar Street in order to form a large site for the skyscraper and its below-grade plaza. Like many post-war developments, the open space around the building was considered an important part of the overall design, and architect Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill paid keen attention to the design of the sunken plaza and the platform levels. Public art also played an important role in the design of many post war complexes, and 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza included a rock garden designed by Noguchi and Jean Dubuffet’s Group of Four Trees, funded by Mr. Rockefeller. The building’s 60-stories height (the sixth largest in the world when it was completed) and its anodized aluminum skin stood out among the masonry relatively short skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan when it was completed.

1 Chase Manhattan Plaza is certainly worthy of individual landmark designation, and I again thank the Commission for considering this and other Modern buildings.

[This article was originally given as oral testimony before the Landmarks Preservation Commission.]