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I speak as an enthusiast; I'm not an architect. But I do have an opinion.

That kind of simplicity of design--in terms of overall shape, variety of surface elements, and color--does not work on that kind of scale. It lacks mystery and nuance and doesn't reward extensive viewing. A simple structure can be interesting, but often by virtue of it's relation to other things, either built or natural. The Pan Am Building is so huge that it's difficult to claim that it has any significant relationship with surrounding buildings. It comes across as a boring wall. To the extent it inspires awe in anyone, it's a kind of awe, I'd guess, that has more to do with a feeling of being overwhelmed and diminished rather than exalted.

I mean, some huge human-built structures--great cathedrals, the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge--can make our spirits soar and fill us with regard for human ability and creativity, but others make us feel inconsequential and distressed at the unnaturalness of our environment. I'd put the Pan Am Building in that latter category.

Nathan Koren

Dreadful. That's my review of it. The pseudo-octagonal shape is awkward, feeling less like geometry and more like an over-stuffed cardboard box that is bulging out at the sides. The surface articulation is just enough to shatter the awe which such a monumental structure would otherwise engender, yet far too little to actually be stimulating. Halfway between overwhelment and engagement is irritation, which is what this building accomplishes on a monumental scale. And lastly (not that I couldn't go on at much greater length), that rooftop platform has all the grace of a Tupperware lid.

I'm a fan of tall, monumental buildings, and I think a building on this scale could have worked. If Belluschi had put the same kind of care into this building that he did into the Commonwealth building, then I would probably love it. But as it is, I certainly don't.

Jeff Belluschi

To put the PanAm in perspective one needs to look at what the client proposed for the design team: maximum space utilization(the largest square footage building in the world at the time of construction)and a beloved sight corridor permanently removed. Regardless of what critics in its day or today have to say it was by far the best solution to an unpopular proposition. One only has to look at the designs that lost to understand. Anything built on the site was going to be unpopular, Belluschi and Gropius maybe should have not bothered but New York is a better place because of their efforts. It's huge! The tapered angle is sort of genius for tempering the building's scale and, one has to admit, a unique alternative to the standard "box" design of the era. My personal bias aside, it is a uniquely American-big and bold- statement coming just a few years after the tail fins of the '59 Cadillac disappeared.


i think its the wrong building in the wrong location. when you view it you see this enormous bulging mass that overwhelms everything around it especially the elegant, well proportioned and beautiful grand central terminal below it as well as the former new york central tower to the north side. i think they should have built a light and slender glass skyscraper that respects the high visability location. i suppose its ok if the alternative was replacing grand central. i never really understood why modernists during that time period were so into brutalism, it seems to go against the very ideas of modernism

pat b

I saw this building as a small child shortly after its completion. It instantly became my favorite skyscraper following everyone's fave the Chrysler building. Simple, clean, and unadorned by artifice, it deserves much more appreciation than many structures that came after it.

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