• SOM returns to Lever House, originally built in 1952, to complete a restoration for the 21st Century

    17 November 2023

    Today, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), joins Brookfield Properties and WatermanCLARK, LLC in celebrating the completion of the newly renovated and restored Lever House, an icon since it was completed in 1952. At the time of its completion, Reyner Banham said of the building “it gave architectural expression to an age just as the age was being born.” Since then, the landmark has been under the care of SOM for over 70 years, a level of stewardship that is unprecedented in the architectural profession.

    The first major renovation happened in 2001 when SOM restored its facade and today, just over two decades later, the project revitalizes and preserves the landmark structure with a restored and reimagined lobby, ground-level public plaza, and entirely new modernized building systems. The tower’s third floor and 15,000 square feet of terraces have been restored and transformed into The Lever Club, an indoor-outdoor hospitality suite with interiors designed by Marmol Radziner and services managed by Sant Ambroeus Hospitality Group.

    “This renovation brings Lever House into the 21st century,” said SOM Partner Chris Cooper. “With completely updated plaza and outdoor spaces, a fully restored lobby, and brand new mechanical systems throughout the building that improve its energy efficiency, we’ve modernized this midcentury icon to its original splendor, to make it, once again, Park Avenue’s premier boutique office building.”

    With remarkable attention to craftsmanship and detail, SOM restored the primary public and private spaces to their original glory, and provided key infrastructural upgrades, including an energy efficient DOAS system that significantly improves the building’s energy performance and maximizes ceiling heights. A series of meticulous efforts, in collaboration with Integrated Conservation Resources, create a place that renews the landmark’s original appearance in 1952. 

    “Our goal was to restore and modernize the building through a combination of material science and careful craftsmanship,” said SOM Principal Frank Mahan. “From carefully calibrating the paving aggregate mix to cleaning the glass mosaic with a toothbrush, the approach is an expression of collective admiration for this architectural treasure.”

    The plaza area has been replaced by a durable cast-in-place concrete matching the design of Lever House’s original exterior paving; the water-damaged ceiling has been replaced with new higher performing plaster; and throughout the site, the original stainless steel-clad columns have been refinished, alongside the champlain black marble. In collaboration with TM Light, energy-efficient, long-lasting LED lights have replaced the original lighting to maintain the aperture and look throughout.

    We are very pleased to unveil Lever House and to see our vision for this iconic building come to life,” said Ric Clark, Co-Managing Partner of WatermanClark. “The renovated Lever House displays anunwavering commitment to architectural stewardship while integrating the qualities of a future-forward workplace, from high-end dining and five-star hospitality to elegant design and state-of-the-art infrastructure.”

    Throughout the lobby and interior, SOM implemented a plethora of refined updates to transform the arrival experience. The original terrazzo flooring has been repaired and refinished to its original sheen; a glass mosaic tile wall in the elevator vestibule has been cleaned and repaired, while a luminous ceiling above features an upgraded, diffused lighting system to improve brightness and energy efficiency. SOM also located the original stone quarry sources for the building, enabling the design team to extend the original finishes to the elevator cab interiors and a new tenant cellar entrance. The lobby, furnished by Marmol Radziner, also features sculptures by Ellsworth Kelly that extend to the open ground floor plaza.  

    The interventions continue to the higher floors, most notably with new landscaping. Acclaimed landscape architecture firm Reed Hildebrand curated a new landscape program across the property. From the plaza and lobby-level planter to the third-floor terrace, Lever House’s landscaping—most of which has changed over the years—now visually unites with a birch tree canopy and understory of native plantings  throughout. At the perimeter of the terrace, the landscaping now features new shrubs, flowers, and perennials to frame views of Park Avenue.

    “When Lever House first opened its doors, it redefined the modern workplace and set a new standard of excellence. Today, we raise the bar even higher, building upon that legacy through an impeccable restoration and reimagination of this Park Avenue icon,” said Callie Haines, Executive Vice President, Northeast Region Head, Brookfield Properties. “We are immensely proud of this project, both ambitious in scale and exacting in detail, and we look forward to welcoming our tenants to the new Lever House experience.”

    A series of sweeping changes to the mechanical systems contributes to new LEED Gold and WELL Platinum certification targets. SOM, in collaboration with Cosentini Associates, equipped the building with a modern, dedicated outdoor air system, new chillers, HEPA filters, and an automated building management system. This new mechanical equipment, along with a 500-kilowatt generator, improved security systems, and modernized elevators, will maintain the landmark’s place as a Class A office space for decades to come.

    From its original completion, through today, Lever House continues to set a precedent,” said SOM Partner Ken Lewis. “The project is a primary example of how we can extend the life, vitality, and sustainability of our existing buildings—which ultimately is the most sustainable thing we can do as a culture.”

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