300 Madison Avenue

300 Madison Avenue is the boxy glass and steel tower on 42nd Street whose mirrored facade is scored with steel fins. But it’s what’s under the skin that’s innovative.

Excavation was already under way when two events dictated radical design changes: 9/11, and the space requirements of Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC), which leased two-thirds of the building from prime tenant Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) World Market.

The owners, Brookfield Financial Properties, decided to harden the design to withstand catastrophic damage, and at the same time create large trading floors in the eight-story base for PWC. Oh, and by the way, while making the building stronger, could you remove one of the columns? Adding to the challenge, the redesign and construction had to stay within the original schedule: Move-in dates were fixed.

Engineers added bracing, used stronger steel beams, replaced some sheetrock walls with concrete, and beefed up fireproofing. Firefighting systems got additional high-capacity water tanks and sprinkler lines. The owners strengthened the electrical system with addition of backup generators. (See the Recommended Reading for details – this building is unusually well documented.)

None of this is obvious from street level. Instead, the mirror glass facade is a pleasing surprise: It makes surrounding buildings more visible, by increasing their apparent distance from the viewer. The upper floors’ fins and alternating bands of glass and steel create interesting patterns, especially because the fins vary in size. The fins save it from being Just Another Glass Box.

300 Madison Avenue Vital Statistics
300 Madison Avenue Recommended Reading

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