Two weeks ago, the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated 11 of its 12 calendared properties in Midtown East as city landmarks, part of its Greater East Midtown Initiative. On Tuesday, the twelfth site received its designation, as the LPC declared the former Citicorp Center, now known as 601 Lexington Avenue, a city landmark.
Located between East 53rd and 54th streets, 601 Lexington Avenue includes the 59-story, 915-foot-tall office building, a six-story retail building, and St. Peter’s Lutheran Church. The design was by Hugh Stubbins & Associates, with Emery Roth & Sons.
It is the only item on the Greater East Midtown Initiative from the post-Grand Central Terminal era, and was constructed between 1973 and 1978. At the time, Ada Louise Huxtable called it a “suave blockbuster” and Paul Goldberger saw it as a “remarkably intelligent synthesis of a number of architectural themes.”
The office tower, with its easy-to-spot slanted roof, sits atop four 24-square-foot supercolumns that rise over 10 stories in height, allowing for a sunken plaza space that paved the way for the tower to grow even taller. The plaza is one of many in the city known as a POPS, or privately owned public space. It was among the first large buildings in the city to employ energy-saving techniques, and was billed as using 42 percent less energy than similar buildings.
Since 2008, Boston Properties has been the owner of 601 Lexington Avenue. Boston Properties, the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), and several preservation groups including the Historic Districts Council and the New York Landmarks Conservancy support the designation.
At the time of its calendaring, LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan called 601 Lexington Avenue her “personal favorite” among the 12 Midtown East properties. At its designation on Tuesday, she called it one of the “great icons of the 1970s” and said it “established a new vocabulary for the New York City skyline.”
The vote to designate was unanimous. Because the building was constructed with additional floor area thanks to the plaza space, a bonus program under the jurisdiction of the City Planning Commission, any changes to the landmark will have to be undertaken with the coordination of the LPC and City Planning.