MetLife Building

The MetLife Building, originally called the Pan Am Building, is a skyscraper located at 200 Park Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, New York City.


History

The MetLife Building (formerly Pan Am Building) was the largest commercial office building in the world when it opened on March 7, 1963. It is a recognizable part of the Manhattan skyline and one of the fifty tallest buildings in the United States. It faced huge unpopularity when it was first built, and was 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.


Pan American World Airways was the building's owner for many years. Its logotype was depicted on signs placed on the building's north and south faces and its globe logo was depicted on signs placed on the building's east and west faces. The MetLife Building was the last tall tower erected in New York City before laws were enacted that prevented placing corporate logos and names on the tops of buildings.


Pan Am originally had 15 floors in the Pan Am Building. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company bought the Pan Am Building from Pan Am in 1981; Pan Am's headquarters remained in the building. In 1991 Pan Am had 4 floors left; 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.


Helicopter service

The building previously provided helicopter service to John F. Kennedy International Airport, a seven-minute flight that left from the rooftop helipad. This service was offered from December 21, 1965, to February 18, 1968, by New York Airways and for a few months in 1977. It ended after a major accident that killed five people.


On May 16, 1977, about one minute after a Sikorsky 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 man died later in a hospital. The blade sailed over the side of the building and killed a pedestrian on the corner of Madison Avenue and 43rd Street. Two other people were seriously injured.


Film director Michael Findlay was named in press reports as being one of the three men on the roof to be killed instantly when "literally cut to pieces."


Suicide

An incident occurred with the suicide of Eli M. Black (the father of Leon 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 forty-fourth story window to his death on Park Avenue.


Architecture

Designed by Emery Roth & Sons with the assistance of Walter Gropius and Pietro Belluschi, the Pan Am Building is an example of an International style skyscraper. It is purely commercial in design with large floors, simple massing, and an absence of ornamentation inside or out. It has been popular with tenants, not least because of its location next to Grand Central Terminal.


In 1987, the lifestyle periodical New York revealed in a poll that MetLife—then Pan Am—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, which is now called the Helmsley Building. Today the building is one of the most recognizable skyscrapers in the City.


Many of the most influential architects of the twentieth century have commended the MetLife Building since its completion. With a shape similar to that of Pirelli Tower in Milan, MetLife is subtle while unique in its lozenge shape, in effect referencing its monumental position. Set apart from many of its contemporaries, MetLife has a heavy pre-cast facade that might have appealed to those looking for a historicist design. The importance of this design and the stress placed on its subtleties may be clearer after a close look at both Gropius's other tall building projects, such as the Chicago Tribune Tower competition.


The Portland House tower in Westminster, London has a near identical shape (identical in cross section) but is finished with a different color. It was built at the same time as the MetLife Building.


Films

As an iconic New York landmark, the building has been seen in a few films such as Coogan's Bluff, Armageddon, Catch Me If You Can, Godzilla, Knowing, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The building is seen in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV as a parody called the GetaLife Building, and in the game Crysis 2, in which it is hit by alien artillery fire and collapses onto Grand Central Terminal. The building is also seen in the movie Knowing (2009), where it is destroyed along with the rest of New York City, and in the movie Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009), where Megatron orders Starscream to launch a full-scale attack on the planet.


Tenants

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 and Barclays Wealth Americas, the largest office of Greenberg Traurig, and the New York offices of Mishcon de Reya, DnB NOR, CB Richard Ellis, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Hunton & Williams, Computer Sciences Corporation, Winston & Strawn & 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.


The building's most famous "residents" are a pair of peregrine falcons nicknamed Lois and Clark after two of the main characters in the Superman film series, which nest there and feed on pigeons.

Building Activity

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