International Plaza (aka 750 Lexington Avenue) brings striking colors and shapes to upper midtown Manhattan – though not without a puzzle or two.
The 30-story office tower was designed by Helmut Jahn and completed in 1988. The conical-stepped crown – visible only from a distance – is the structure’s most distinctive feature; it caps a cobalt blue glass cylinder buttressed by glass and granite wings above a 13-floor granite and glass base. From certain angles the tower reminds one of a satellite with its solar arrays unfurled. The glass and steel of the building’s granite base are tinted blue-green; along Lexington Avenue, the street-level stores have two-floor bowed display windows. The base is set back generously along East 59th and East 60th Streets and Lexington Avenue – not quite the plaza that the building’s name claims, but more than twice the average sidewalk width for the neighborhood.
Two puzzles erupt from International Plaza’s side facades. The main entrance on East 59th Street is under a boxy three-story portico that doesn’t seem to fit. And on the East 60th Street side, a four-story grey box juts out into the sidewalk, with no apparent purpose. Further, the box is pierced by windows and doors of another era, as though torn from the face of a brownstone. A memorial to a former occupant of the site?
As it turns out, that is what remains of 134 E 60th Street, a townhouse whose last tenant refused to move. The stubborn holdout died in the 1990s, but the townhouse remains. (Untapped Cities blog).
Chicago-based Helmut Jahn designed five other distinctive buildings in New York – three of which were completed in 1987: 425 Lexington Avenue (31 floors, across E43rd Street from the Chrysler building); CitySpire Center (75 floors); Park Avenue Tower (36 floors); America Apartments (37 floors). The fifth (and most recent – 1989) structure is the 12-story Metropolitan Transportation Authority building in downtown Brooklyn.
International Plaza Vital Statistics
- Location: 750 Lexington Avenue between E 59th and E 60th Streets
- Year completed: 1988
- Architect: Helmut Jahn
- Floors: 30
- Style: Postmodern
International Plaza Suggested Reading
- The City Review article
- Cohen Brothers Realty (developer) website
- A View On Cities website
- Emporis database