1221 Avenue of the Americas

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1221 Avenue of the Americas
1221 Avenue of the Americas 2016.jpg
1221 Avenue of the Americas. 1251 Avenue of the Americas is visible to left.
General information
Architectural styleInternational style
Location1221 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
Coordinates40°45′33″N 73°58′54″W / 40.75917°N 73.98167°W / 40.75917; -73.98167Coordinates: 40°45′33″N 73°58′54″W / 40.75917°N 73.98167°W / 40.75917; -73.98167
Construction started1966
OwnerRockefeller Group (Mitsubishi Estate)
Roof674 feet (205 m)
Technical details
Floor count51
Floor area2,199,982 sq ft (204,385 m2)
Design and construction
ArchitectWallace Harrison

1221 Avenue of the Americas (formerly also known as the McGraw-Hill Building) is an international-style skyscraper located at 1221 Sixth Avenue, in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. The 51-floor structure has a seven-storey base and a simple, cuboid massing. The intentionally featureless facade offers no decoration and consists of red granite piers alternating with glass stripes to underline the tower's verticality. There is a 35-meter setback from Sixth Avenue, featuring a sunken courtyard dominated by the 15-meter abstract steel sculpture named Sun Triangle by Athelstan Spilhaus. The tower's lobby is clad in dark red terazzo and red marble, and is also decorated with aphorisms by Plato and John F. Kennedy.[2]


The building was part of the later Rockefeller Center expansion (1960s–1970s) dubbed the "XYZ Buildings".[3] Their plans were first drawn in 1963 by the Rockefeller family's architect, Wallace Harrison, of the architectural firm Harrison & Abramovitz.[4] Their letters correspond to their height. 1251 Avenue of the Americas is the "X" Building as it is the tallest at 750 ft (229 m) and 54 stories, and was the first completed, in 1971. The "Y" is 1221 Avenue of the Americas, which was the second tower completed (1973) and is the second in height (674 ft and 51 stories). The "Z" Building, the shortest and the youngest, is 1211 Avenue of the Americas with 45 stories (592 ft).[5] It is the 80th tallest building in New York.

The building is the former headquarters of McGraw-Hill Financial, from which it derived its former name.[6] Other tenants include Sirius XM Satellite Radio, whose headquarters and broadcast facility are in the building.

The sunken courtyard of this building contains a large metal triangle designed by Athelstan Spilhaus and fabricated by Tyler Elevator Products, arranged so the Sun aligns with its sides at solstices and equinoxes.[7] When built, the southwestern corner held a display of scale models of planets in the Solar System. A mosaic map of the Earth survives in the northwestern corner.

In 2009, the structure earned LEED (Certified level designation) for Existing Buildings certification from USGBC.[8]

Sunken courtyard
World maps ans sculpture Sun Triangle

1999 elevator incident[edit]

After entering an express elevator at approximately 11:00 p.m. (EDT) Friday on October 15, 1999, Nicholas White, an employee of the building, who was going down to take a cigarette break, became trapped after a brief power dip caused the elevator to stop between the 13th and 14th floors. Though he signaled an alarm and there was surveillance video inside the elevator cab, White was not rescued until approximately 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 17, nearly 41 hours later, after security guards spotted him in the surveillance cameras.[9][10]

In popular culture[edit]

The buildings are featured in the opening credits of Saturday Night Live, seen from below looking up in the street from a car. It was used for the exteriors and lobby of Elias-Clarke's headquarters in the 2006 film The Devil Wears Prada and the interior shots for Suits. It is also the headquarters of Sirius XM Radio, and many radio shows broadcast from the building including The Howard Stern Show.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 1221 Avenue of the Americas at Emporis
  2. ^ "THE McGRAW-HILL BUILDING II (1221 Sixth Ave.)". Retrieved December 27, 2018.
  3. ^ Nash, Eric (1999). Manhattan Skyscrapers. Princeton Architectural Press. p. 127. ISBN 9781568981819. Retrieved December 28, 2018.
  4. ^ Krinsky, Carol H. (1978). Rockefeller Center. Oxford University Press. p. 117. ISBN 978-0-19-502404-3.
  5. ^ "XYZ Buildings Exxon Building McGraw-Hill Building Celanese Building". Manhattan Skyscrapers. New York, NY: Princeton Archit.Press. pp. 127–130. doi:10.1007/1-56898-652-1_57. ISBN 978-1-56898-545-9.
  6. ^ "McGraw Hill Moves Downtown, Says Goodbye to Namesake Building". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved July 14, 2015.
  7. ^ Natural History Magazine Archived July 5, 2008, at the Wayback Machine Sun triangle
  8. ^ "1221 Avenue of the Americas". USGBC. Retrieved December 25, 2018.
  9. ^ Tierney, John (October 28, 1999). "The Big City; Aftermath Of 40 Hours In an Elevator". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
  10. ^ "Up and Then Down". The New Yorker. April 21, 2008. Retrieved May 7, 2017.

External links[edit]