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Designed by Philip Johnson and John Burgee, this building whose official name is “53rd at Third” is popularly known as The Lipstick Building. Its elegant elliptical shape differentiates it from the buildings in its surroundings.
This is the second post-modern contribution of the architect Philip Johnson on the Manhattan skyline, after the AT & T building he built two years earlier. This time the unusual shape, which ended up naming the building, was a requirement of the owner to make the building appear tilted out, compensating for the less fashionable position at that time on Third Avenue. The elliptical form also means that all the offices located in the perimeter of the plant are “corner offices”, one of the most quoted situations on the floor of a building.
The 138m high building consists of three oval cylinders placed one on top of the other, from highest to lowest, creating the building with an inclined aspect that moves away, as it rises, from the crowded Third Av, thus fulfilling with The urban regulations of the city in terms of volume, occupation of light in the street and space for the pedestrian circulation of the busy avenue. Its oval shape occupies less surface at the base than a conventional skyscraper with quadrilateral footprint. According to the architect, the elliptical shape of the perimeter colonnade surrounding the building is reminiscent of the Baroque period in which this form was very fashionable. Although certainly this will not be one of the first observations of a casual visitor.
The elliptical form of the plant also ensures that there are no differences between the offices located in the perimeter of the plants since by definition the ellipse, when belonging to the same family as the circle, has no vertices and therefore no corners. Its shape along with the fact that the building’s floor decreases as it gains height and the red tone that prints the granite that covers it have made from a good beginning the New Yorkers nicknamed it “Lipstick Building” or “Building Pencil” Of Lips “. Something that at first was not in the minds of the architects.
Once inside the building we find a large lobby of 9 meters high which is surprising to be a really hollow space inside the building surrounded by columns. This is achieved by the fact that elevators and emergency stairs are located at the bottom of the building and not in the typical central position. The lobby as well as welcoming visitors hosts a series of kiosks and a cafeteria that has adopted as the official name “Lipstick Café”. The rest of the building is used entirely to house offices of different companies.
Not only because of the height of the building but also because of its unique shape, it was decided to use a steel structure to support the loads and transmit them to the foundation.
Located between blocks of rectangular buildings its oval outline rises in three stacked bodies, like an open lipstick tube. The building is delivered to the ground by a series of elliptical columns lined in red granite arranged in pairs in the direction of the major axis of the ellipse and placed one by one as we go in parallel with the minor axis.
The base of the building is made a little smaller than the others leaving a free space between the facade at the foot of the street and the columns that deliver the building to the ground creating a space as a perimeter gallery ceded to pedestrians.
On the façade of this 34-level building, red granite alternates with horizontal bands of glass framed in aluminum and steel. Steel and concrete were used in the structure.