Formerly the IBM Building, 590 Madison Avenue is a 603 feet (184 m) tall skyscraper at the corner of 57th street in New York City, New York. It was completed in 1983 and has 41 floors. The building cost US$10 million, has 93,592 square metres (1,007,420 sq ft) of floor area, has 24 elevators, and is the 81st tallest building in New York. Edward Larrabee Barnes & Associates designed the building, and IBM developed it. IBM sold the tower to E.J. Minskoff Equities Inc in 1994. As of December 2007, 98% of the building is leased.

590 Madison Avenue is an office building formerly owned by IBM. It was completed in 1983, and was used as the company headquarters until it was sold to E. J. Minskoff Equity Inc. in 1994. The building is located on Madison Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets in Manhattan, New York City. As a 41 story building, its height reaches 603 feet (184m). It has a unique wedge shape and an adjacent, privately-owned public space covered by a glass structure, which contains resting chairs, tables, and bamboo trees, and is used for pedestrian circulation, resting, amenities, art displays and cultural events.


Zoning 1916
In the early 20th century, Manhattan was the place for experimental skyscraper buildings. After the appearance of the earliest skyscrapers such as the Flatiron Building, many of the skyscrapers were built on the island one after another. To preserve the environmental quality on street level, regulations on skyscraper construction was needed. The city announced the zoning solution that was the first one in U.S. The solution focused on providing more sunlight and air to street level. Using three types of zoning districts with set back rules regulated the size and height of buildings. The most famous skyscrapers during this period were the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building. The stepping shape style that was called “wedding cake” or “ziggurat” is the result of these zoning regulations. Developers and architects in this era tried to obtain the maximum space of a building by working within the zoning restrictions.

1961 Zoning Resolution
In 1961 the city reformed the first zoning solution. The new zoning solution used the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) regulation instead of setback rules. A building’s maximum floor area is regulated according to the ratio that was imposed to the site where the building is located. Another feature of new zoning solution was adjacent public open space. If developers put adjacent public open space to their buildings, they could get additional area for their building as a bonus. This incentive bonus rule was created because of the strong influence from two representative skyscrapers. The Seagram building by Mies van der Rohe with Philip Johnson, and the Lever House by Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, they introduced the new ideas about office building with open space. These buildings changed the skyline of New York City with both the advent of simple glass box design and their treatment of adjacent open spaces. The new zoning encouraged privately owned public space to ease the density of the city. (3)

Headquarters of IBM Company
In 1973, the construction of the IBM building was permitted by New York City. Its plan included square footage exceeded the legal limitation of allowable floor area but it was accepted because of the bonus for providing benefits of public open space. The building was completed in 1983. It’s a successful example of an office building providing public open space.

Change of ownership from IBM to Minskoff Equities
The building was used by the IBM as its headquarter until sold to Edward J. Minskoff Equities Inc. in 1994. In following year, the new owner applied to the City Planning Commission for the modification proposal of its atrium. After hearing of arguments for and against the proposal, the public space was altered. Although there were some changes in the atrium such as the removal of a few bamboo trees, additional chairs, and displays of sculpture, it still kept the designation as an oasis in the city. The building and its atrium have been known as one of the most monumental buildings and popular open spaces in the city.

Architect Edward Larrabee Barnes
Edward Larrabee Barnes is one of the greatest modernists in American architecture history. He was born in 1915, Chicago, Illinois, the son of Cecil Barnes, a lawyer who graduated from Harvard, and Margaret Ayer Barns, a successful writer who won a Pulitzer Prize for her novel “Years of Grace” in 1931. He studied English, art history, and history of architecture in Harvard. After one year teaching in Milton Academy, he returned to the school and studied architecture in the Harvard Graduate School of Design. In the school, he was influenced as a modernist under the leadership of two German immigrant architects, Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer. After travelling in Europe on a Sheldon Traveling Fellowship, he moved to New York to start his practice. His work ranged widely between residential, commercial, educational, and cultural projects. The style of his work can be described as pure modernist. He often used simple and geometrical forms to approach in his project. His selflessness led him to build projects that corresponded to site and context, client preferences, user friendliness, and he often achieved a good balance in the limited budget and various regulations. The quality of his work contributed to the development of American modern architecture. He died in Cupertino, California, 2004, at 89 ages. Representative work -Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas (1978–83,84,93) -Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota (1966–71, 84) -Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Deer Isle, Maine (1958–61, 79)

Site and context
The site of the building, 590 Madison Avenue (between 55th and 56th Street) is in the Upper East Side of Manhattan which is dense with many office buildings. Interestingly, the location is close to two of other significant skyscrapers that also have public open spaces, the Trump Tower, and the Sony Building, formerly AT&T World Headquarters. This context strongly influenced to the design of the building. Its wedge shape was intended to avoid too much volume of the building toward 56th Street that is a relatively narrow street, Instead, Barnes faced the building toward 57th Street and Madison Avenue directly without setback. The space saved by cutting the South West corner of the building assigned to create open space at ground level. The open space is connected to 5th Avenue through the atrium in the Trump Tower. Also, a pedestrian arcade is across the block and creates circulation from 57th Street through 56th Street to Sony Building. The open space of the IBM building not only provides the space to escape from density but also activates the circulation in this area.

Form and use
The building was designed as a unique wedged shape cutting South West corner of rectangular box. The volume can be seen differently from different angles, sometimes slender, sometimes gigantic. The entrance of the building is the most impressive part of the façade providing spectacle and openness to the street and welcoming visitors. Use of 41 stories building is mainly office use. At ground level, some retail stores are facing 57th Street. The building occupies only 40 percent of the property and the rest of the square footage are assigned to public open space. The space is filled with series of amenities such as food and drink kiosks, tables and chairs, receptacles, and so on. Green bamboo trees installed in the space celebrates the serenity of an indoor garden. Also, art work displayed inside entertains visitors. This space is occasionally used for some events.

Material and structure
The exterior of the building is covered by gray green glass and polished granite. The moderately reflective surface keeps changing its texture depending on the angle and the light. The use of transparent glass for the public space emphasizes its openness and lets plenty of sunlight in. The wedge shape building was a challenge in terms of structure because its shape caused more wind load than that to conventional box shape skyscrapers. After wind tunnel tests, original structural system was revised because of the wind load. The frames around the elevator shafts are kept as they were, then diagonal frames were added. Columns on the perimeter of the building were moved closer by half and the spandrel beams were strengthened. Surprisingly, after reconsideration of structure, the total amount of steel decreased. Another interesting the challenge in structure was cantilevered entrance. The point is not how to support the load above but how to keep the stability of the building. Using stronger and bigger columns for the base solved this problem.

The IBM building is the one of the most significant skyscrapers in Manhattan. Because of the adjacent open space, it creates different context within the density of Midtown. The space serves not only for circulation but also recreation with plenty of amenities. This is one of the few successful examples in corporate modernism and zoning solution. The architect showed his respect to the surrounding environment and paid attention to utility through the designing process, which resulted in the plan and the relationship between the building and open space. While there are so many flashy skyscrapers, IBM building is a good model of a well-balanced skyscraper that exhibits its significance while maintaining the harmony its surrounding environment.

1. Larrabee Barnes, Edward. “Edward Larrabee Barnes, Architect” 1994, Rizzoli International Publications, Inc. PP.158–165 2. W.Bressi, Todd. “Planning and Zoning New York City.” 1993, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey PP.7–9 3. W.Bressi, Todd. “Planning and Zoning New York City.” 1993, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey PP.9–12 4. Larrabee Barnes, Edward. “Edward Larrabee Barnes, Architect” 1994, Rizzoli International Publications, Inc. PP.158–165 5. Kayden, Jerold S. The New York City Department of City Planning. The Municipal Society Art of New York. “Privately Owned Public Space” 2000, John Wiley PP.173–174 6. Larrabee Barnes, Edward. “Edward Larrabee Barnes, Architect” 1994, Rizzoli International Publications, Inc. 7. Douglas Martine, “Edward Larrabee barnes, Modern Architect, Dies at 89” New York Times, September 23, 2004 8. Architectural Record, May 1984 V.172 no. 6 9. W.Bressi, Todd. “Planning and Zoning New York City.” 1993, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, PP.173–4 10. Larrabee Barnes, Edward. “Edward Larrabee Barnes, Architect” 1994, Rizzoli International Publications, Inc. PP. 158–165 11. Architectural Record, May 1984 V.172 no.6 P.149

Notable tenants
  • Arkin Kaplan Rice LLP
  • IBM
  • Lovells
  • Russell Investments
  • Travelzoo
  • Galleon Group
  • Bain Capital
  • Smith Barney
  • Morgan Stanley
  • Citigroup
  • Bank of America
  • UBS
  • Cemex
  • Crowell & Moring

Building Activity

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