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1271 Avenue of the Americas Recladding and Repositioning

New York  Map
2014–20
Lead Designers
Jay L. Berman Yvonne Szeto Katherine Bojsza Christopher Jend

Repositioning a mid-century modern icon for the 21st-century workplace

This historically significant tower has benefited from the success of a sensitive and carefully considered program of restoration, modernization, and improvement.

The repositioning comprised five interdependent and parallel projects, of which facade replacement was the most significant. Incorporating low-E glazing and thermal breaks, the new cladding provides 50% more vision area while retaining the essential proportions of the original facade.

Overall building energy usage was reduced by more than 40%.

The leasing success of the project, which went from vacant upon the relocation of its primary tenant, to nearly full prior to completion of construction, speaks to the benefit to building owners, users, the public, and the planet of strategic interventions that preserve rather than demolish in order to meet the demands of the 21st-century workforce.

Show Facts
Site

The former Time & Life Building in Midtown Manhattan

Area

Building area 2 million ft2 / 185,000 m2; curtain wall surface area: 626,000 ft2 / 58,000 m2

Components

Complete recladding of curtain wall and storefront facade; restoration and upgrade of historic landmarked lobby, including elevators and exterior plaza

Client

Rockefeller Group

PCF&P Services

Architecture for lobby and plaza; exterior envelope; interior design of lobby

Sustainability

LEED Gold

Awards

American Architecture Award
Chicago Athenaeum, 2021

International Architecture Award
Chicago Athenaeum / European Centre, 2021

Green Good Design Award: Architecture
Chicago Athenaeum / European Centre, 2021

Design Award
Society of American Registered Architects, 2021

Design Award of Merit
Society of American Registered Architects, New York Council, 2021

Vitruvian Awards: Outstanding Facade Preservation: Finalist
Facade Tectonics Institute, 2021

Award for Excellence: Finalist
Urban Land Institute New York, 2021

Designed as the Time & Life Building by Harrison & Abramovitz & Harris Architects and completed in 1959, 1271 Avenue of the Americas illustrates a typology of commercial buildings that embody the transformational ideas and technology of the postwar period of the twentieth century but are now underperforming and facing obsolescence.
The repositioning called for not only restoration and expansion of the landmarked lobby but replacement of the facade, improvement of the public plaza, modernization of elevators, and substantial upgrades to building systems.
FACADE REPLACEMENT >>>
Respecting the rhythm of the existing limestone piers, silver fins, and bronze mullions, the design maintains the architectural module of the original facade . . .
. . . while increasing the area of vision glass by more than 50 percent.
The design reverses the proportion of spandrel glass to vision glass.

Original (top) and new (bottom)

The new unitized, thermally broken curtain wall features a double-glazed IGU with high-performance low-E coating, contributing to an energy savings of 28.5 percent over the code baseline and 41 percent over the existing building.

Existing stick system, single-glazed windows

Removal of windows and mullions between stone piers

Removal of block wall and downstand beam

Installation of new unitized curtain wall system

view south

view north

REIMAGINING THE PLAZA >>>
The transformation of the east plaza opens the building to the avenue and creates a more inviting, human-scaled public space, providing a new stepped landscape feature with seating, seasonal plantings, and five fountain pools.
The signature Copacabana paving pattern, recreated in a durable custom concrete, has been extended to the curb, forming a continuous and expansive public space.

An iconic new canopy leading from the 51st Street passage reestablishes access to the plaza while providing exciting retail opportunities.

Below the restored canopies along 50th Street, the Copacabana paving pattern extends seamlessly into the expanded lobby.

PRESERVATION & MODERNIZATION OF THE LANDMARKED LOBBY >>>
With the strong support of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission and other agencies, the lobby has been carefully restored and expanded.

BEFORE

AFTER: Previously altered to a narrow corridor, the south lobby has been fully opened.

"Relational Painting #88" by Fritz Glarner, restored

"Portals" by Josef Albers, restored

Modernized elevators

New bicycle room, private changing rooms, and showers

Project Credits

Historic Preservation Consultant: Higgins Quasebarth & Partners LLC; Landscape: Ken Smith Landscape Architect, New York; Structural and M/E/P: Arup; Fountain: Fluidity Design Consultants, Los Angeles; Signage: Poulin + Morris, Inc., New York; Lighting: One Lux Studio; Images: Albert Vecerka/ESTO, Rockefeller Group Archives, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners