|Location||200 Park Avenue
Manhattan, New York 10166
|Opening||March 7, 1963|
|Roof||808 ft (246 m)|
|Floor area||3,140,000 sq ft (292,000 m2)|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||Emery Roth & Sons, Pietro Belluschi and Walter Gropius|
|Structural engineer||The Office of James Ruderman|
The MetLife Building is a 59-story skyscraper at 200 Park Avenue at East 45th Street above Grand Central Terminal in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Built in 1960–63 as the Pan Am Building, the then-headquarters of Pan American World Airways, it was designed by Emery Roth & Sons, Pietro Belluschi and Walter Gropius in the International style. The world's largest commercial office space by square footage at its opening, it remains one of the fifty tallest buildings in the United States.
In September 1960, Pan Am founder Juan Trippe signed a 25-year, $115,500,000 lease with the building's developer, Erwin Wolfson, allowing the airline to occupy 613,000 square feet (56,900 m2), or about 15 floors, plus a new main ticket office at 45th Street and Vanderbilt Avenue.
When it opened on March 7, 1963, the Pan Am Building (as it was known at the time) was the largest commercial office space in the world by square footage. It faced huge initial unpopularity, being described as an "ugly behemoth", due to its lack of proportion and huge scale—it dwarfed the New York Central Building to the north and the Grand Central Terminal to the south. It surpassed the previous largest building in terms of square footage—111 Eighth Avenue. It in turn was surpassed by the World Trade Center in 1970–71 as well as 55 Water Street in 1972.
The last tall tower erected in New York City before laws were enacted preventing corporate logos and names on the tops of buildings, it bore 15' tall "Pan Am" displays on its north and south faces and 25' tall globe logos east and west.
Pan Am originally occupied 15 floors of the building. It remained Pan Am's headquarters even after Metropolitan Life Insurance Company bought the building in 1981. By 1991, Pan Am's presence had dwindled to four floors; during that year Pan Am moved its headquarters to Miami. Shortly afterwards, the airline ceased operations. On Thursday September 3, 1992, MetLife announced that it would remove Pan Am signage from the building. Robert G. Schwartz, the chairman, chief executive, and president of MetLife, said that the company decided to remove the Pan Am sign since Pan Am ceased operations. At the time MetLife was headquartered in the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower.
In 2005, MetLife sold the building for $1.72 billion, the record price at the time for an office building in the U.S. The buyer was a joint venture of Tishman Speyer Properties, the New York City Employees' Retirement System, and the New York City Teachers' Retirement System.
New York Airways flew Vertol 107s helicopters from the rooftop helipad to Pan Am's terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport from December 21, 1965, to February 18, 1968, when the service ceased due to inadequate passenger loads. For a short part of that time, they also offered service to Teterboro Airport.
Service to JFK resumed in early 1977 using Sikorsky S-61s. On May 16, 1977, about one minute after an S-61L landed and its 20 passengers disembarked, the right front landing gear collapsed, causing the aircraft to topple onto its side with the rotors still turning. One of the five 20-foot blades broke off and flew into a crowd of passengers waiting to board. Three men were killed instantly and another died later in a hospital. The blade sailed over the side of the building and killed a female pedestrian on the corner of Madison Avenue and 43rd Street. Two other people were seriously injured. Helicopter service was quickly suspended, and has never resumed.
The building was the site of the suicide of Eli M. Black on February 3, 1975. The CEO of United Brands Company (now Chiquita Brands International) used his briefcase to shatter an external window and then jumped out of the 44th-story window to his death on Park Avenue.
Designed in the International style by Emery Roth & Sons with the assistance of Walter Gropius and Pietro Belluschi, the Pan Am Building is purely commercial, with large floors, simple massing, with an absence of ornamentation inside and out. It has been popular with tenants, not least because of its location next to Grand Central Terminal. It is current opinion that the architecture of the building has been inspired by the Pirelli Tower, built in 1956 in Milan, Italy, which has been a model also for the Alpha Tower in Birmingham (UK) and other similar buildings in Switzerland and Spain.
In 1987, a poll conducted by the lifestyle periodical New York indicated that the tower was the building that New Yorkers would most like to see demolished. Perhaps contributing to the hatred of the building is the fact that it is so visible. Situated behind Grand Central Terminal outside of the grid, the building, which would have otherwise been tucked away into the city, is left totally exposed and contrasted with the other buildings around it, most notably the New York Central Building (today the Helmsley Building). The MetLife Building also partially obstructs the view of the Chrysler Building from the Top Of The Rock. The building remains one of the city's most recognizable skyscrapers.
In addition to being the official headquarters of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, the MetLife Building houses a number of other major firms, including the headquarters of Dreyfus Corporation, Knight Vinke, the wealth and investment management division of Barclays, the largest office of Greenberg Traurig, DnB NOR, CB Richard Ellis, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Hunton & Williams, Computer Sciences Corporation, Winston & Strawn, and Lend Lease Corporation on Level 9. In addition the building serves as the U.S. Headquarters for Mitsui & Co. (USA) Inc, the American subsidiary of Japan's largest trading company, BNP Paribas Investment Partners and its American subsidiary Fischer, Francis, Trees and Watts.
In popular culture
- As an iconic Manhattan landmark, it has been seen in films such as Only When I Larf, Coogan's Bluff, The French Connection, Armageddon, Catch Me If You Can, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
- The building, still under construction, is glimpsed briefly in the 1962 Italian film Mafioso.
- It also appears in the 1968 film Coogan's Bluff.
- In the 1970 film musical "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever", the building is host to Yves Montand singing the first verse of "Come Back to Me" from its roof.
- On the ABC television series Pan Am, the building was shown with the original company logo.
- The building is compared to a tombstone in Joni Mitchell's song "Harry's House". It is seen in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV as a parody called the GetaLife Building, and in the video game Crysis 2, where it is hit by alien artillery fire and collapses onto Grand Central Terminal.
- Several pivotal sections of the young adult novel So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane occur in, atop, or directly adjacent to the Pan Am building.
- The building is shown briefly in the 1990 film Gremlins 2, with PAN AM logo.
- The building also appears partially destroyed in the 1998 Godzilla film.
- The building appears in the 2009 movie Knowing, where it is destroyed along with the rest of New York City.
- In the 2012 film The Avengers, a majority of the building is deconstructed to accommodate Stark Tower.
- White, Norval & Willensky, Elliot with Leadon, Fran (2010). AIA Guide to New York City (5th ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195383867. p.316
- MetLife Building at SkyscraperPage
- MetLife Building at Emporis
- Clausen, p. 137.
- Horsley, Carter C. The MetLife Building, The Midtown Book. Accessed September 30, 2007. "When it was completed, the 2,400,000 sq ft (220,000 m2) building became the world's largest office building in bulk, a title it would lose a few years later to 55 Water Street downtown."
- Schneider, Daniel B. "F.Y.I.", The New York Times, January 5, 1997. Accessed September 30, 2007. "Q. I recall that it was 1963 when the huge Pan Am letters were put atop what is now the Met Life building and that it was 1992 when they were taken down.... A. Most of the letters and the accompanying logos did not survive removal; exceptions are in warehouses.... The letters, each about 15 feet (4.6 m) tall, and the logos—25-foot (7.6 m)-wide globes—had to be cut into sections and pulled up onto the roof by technicians from Universal Unlimited, who built and installed their replacements, the Met Life signs."
- Dunlap, David W. "Final Pan Am Departure". The New York Times. September 4, 1992. Retrieved on August 25, 2009.
- Ramirez, Anthony. "MetLife Sells 2nd Building, A Landmark On Park Ave." The New York Times. April 2, 2005. Retrieved on August 25, 2009.
- Schneider, Daniel B. "F.Y.I." The New York Times, July 25, 1999. Accessed September 30, 2007. "Q. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, helicopters bound for Kennedy International Airport used to take off from a deck atop the old Pan Am Building. Why was the service halted? A. As many as 360 helicopter flights a day were planned by New York Airways after the 59-story Pan Am building was completed in 1963, but a bitter public outcry delayed the first few flights until Dec. 21, 1965.... The operation proved unprofitable, however, since the helicopters carried an average of only eight passengers, and the heliport, which had cost $1 million to build, closed in 1968.... After another round of hearings—and renewed protests—flights resumed in February 1977. Three months later, the landing gear on one of the Sikorsky S-61 helicopters collapsed while passengers were boarding, flipping it on its side and sending a 20-foot rotor blade skidding across the roof and over the west parapet wall. Within hours, the heliport was closed indefinitely."
- Hudson, Edward. "Helicopter Service From Roof Of Pan Am Building Suspended; PAN AM SUSPENDS COPTER SERVICES", The New York Times, February 19, 1968. Accessed September 30, 2007. "Helicopter operations from the 59-story roof of the Pan Am Building were suspended last night as a result of a dispute over the future financial support of the operation by Pan American World Airways."
- Associated Press. "Five Dead in Helicopter Crash". The Fort Scott Tribune: Tuesday, 17 May 1977, page 1.
- NTSB. Aircraft Accident Report - New York Airways, Inc., Sikorsky S-61L, N619PA Pan Am Building Heliport, New York, New York, May 16, 1977. (PDF)
- UPI. Helicopter Crash Kills Five. The Beaver County Times (Penn.): Tuesday, 17 May 1977, A-13.
- McGrath, Charles. "A Lunch Club for the Higher-Ups." The New York Times. May 26, 2005. Retrieved on September 19, 2014.
- McDowell, Edwin. "Reviving High Life, 67 Floors Up; Chrysler Building Redoes the Cloud Club's Old Space." The New York Times. April 11, 2000. Retrieved on September 19, 2014.
- Boucher, Geoff (24 May 2013). "‘Avengers’ deconstructed: Helicarrier, Stark Tower design secrets". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
- Clausen, Meredith. The Pan Am Building and the Shattering of the Modernist Dream. MIT Press, 2005. ISBN 0262033240, 9780262033244.
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