Architect: Philip Johnson, John Burgee Year(s) of construction: 1986 Height: 143 m Floors: 36 Location: New York, New York, United States

Architect: Philip Johnson, John Burgee
Year(s) of construction: 1986
Height: 143 m
Floors: 34
Location: New York, New York, United States

Its official name is 53rd at Third, but is popularly known as the Lipstick Building  (the lipstick). The elegant elliptical shape of the building is different from its surroundings.

This is the second post-modern contribution of Philip Johnson to the Manhattan skyline, after the AT & T building with its unusual pediment, built two years earlier.

lipstick unusual uglyConsidered by some to be one of the ugliest buildings in Manhattan, it has held a special place in my heart since first seeing it with my design students on an architectural field trip, post construction. We were all excited to see a building that resembles a tube of lipstick. It’s an unusual reddish/purplish color, like a deep red lipstick,1986ness (it’s made of enameled Imperial granite and steel). It stands on columns (not visible from this photo, but columns can be seen in the first image above), which are two stories high and separate the street from the nine-meter high lobby, a lobby almost as tall as a two-story building. Today, I find it hilarious, amazing and set apart from the square 1960’s glass boxes. It definitely connects to the nostalgia of the 1980s Johnson buildings in New York.

Lipstick Building fun facts:

  • The building was designed by John Burgee/Philip Johnson Architects in 1986.
  • It is 453 foot (138 meters) tall in four oval cylinders placed one on the other, from highest to lowest, with 34 floors, creating a building that is tilted away from the crowded third avenue.
  • Bernie Madoff’s offices were there – his investment company leased the 17th through 19th floors.
  • New York rates it as one of the eight worst buildings to have blighted our skyline. (“One of Phillip Johnson’s (many) failures”)
  • The elliptical shape makes no difference between offices located around the perimeter where top executives usually have the corner office. Here, there are no corners.
  • The Ramones second single (1976) is about the intersection of 53rd & 3rd being a notorious spot for male prostitutes to hustle. Dee Dee wrote it and sings the bridge. The area was a section of what was known as “the Loop,” which also boasted gay bars such as Rounds and Red. In 1994, a crackdown by police with heavy support from the neighborhood saw an end to the area’s nighttime activities, and despite protests by gay advocate groups, many arrests were made and the bars were shuttered.
53 street & 3 avenue

53 street & 3 avenue

The exact address is 885   Third Avenue, New York City, the streets between 53rd and 54th, only two blocks from the famous PJ Clarke’s on 55th street.

The company that owned the building filed for bankruptcy in 2010.

What do you think of a building that resembles a tube of lipstick–a red one at that?





spider Little Miss MuffetDid you know little Ms Muffet sat on her tuffet eating her curds and whey? Along came a great spider and sat down beside her and  frightened Ms Muffet away. Sci-Fi writers, take note. Never before had a great spider jumped on Ms Muffet. It had only been a small spider, and it was friendly like the red one below.

Webs allow a spider to catch prey without having to expend energy by running it down. Thus it is an efficient method of gathering food. However, constructing the web is in itself an energetically costly process because of the large amount of protein required, in the form of silk. In addition, after a time the silk will lose its stickiness and thus become inefficient at capturing prey. It is common for spiders to eat their own web daily to recoup some of the energy used in spinning. The silk proteins are thus recycled.

The tensile strength of spider silk is greater than the same weight of steel and has much greater elasticity. Its microstructure is under investigation for potential applications in industry, including bullet-proof vests and artificial tendons. Researchers have used genetically modified mammals to produce the proteins needed to make this material.

Little Miss Muffet – YouTube

spider red in ffld  crop 9.20.08 008Ms Muffet’s spider.

What web are you caught up in lately? 15, 2008 – 2 min – Uploaded by musicfactorymusic Little Miss Muffet Children’s Animation.


Bauhaus Art by the group at the school

The Grand Stand of design happened in the early 20th century. The guilty? The Bauhaus. So, what came before? Gradual economic and social changes in the 18th and 19th century caused by the Industrial Revolution. Because of those events, the  Bauhaus, a school of different ways of thinking, changed how we viewed and developed art and technology. We are talking about, let’s say for an art example, a painting, and for technology, the Bauhaus balconies or a chair or a teapot and more stuff than you can imagine.

László Moholy-Nagy
‘Bauhaus Balconies’
Silver gelatin photograph

The idea for the school was the gestalt of a learning atmosphere for all, the teacher, the student, and the creator. They all were involved with the process. Triggered by 19th century technological-industrial development, there was no gap between artistic conception and realization. It became easier to design and develop because everyone worked together.

Bauhaus "Wassily" Chair by Marcel Breuer

For example, another member of the staff at the Bauhaus, Marcel Breuer, looked at the tubular form of the bicycle handlebars and made a chair using the concept. No, it wasn’t a chair with pedals. It was a chair with tubular steel supports.

Wassily Chair
Designed by Marcel Breuer, produced by Knoll®
In spirit and stature, Marcel Breuer’s Wassily Chair (1925) from Knoll has few equals. Believed to be the first bent tubular steel chair design, the Wassily Chair distills the traditional club chair to a series of strong, spare lines, executed with dynamic material counterpoint. The gleaming chrome-finished tubular steel frame, inspired by the graceful, curving handlebars of the Adler bicycle, is seamless in its assemblage. Thick cowhide leather slings create the design’s seating surfaces, which maintain their crisp tautness for decades. Named for Wassily Kandinsky, the father of abstract painting and a colleague of Breuer’s at the Bauhaus, the Wassily Chair is a symbol of the industrial heroism and engineering invention of the early 20th century. Made in Italy, each piece is stamped with the KnollStudio logo and the designer’s signature. The Wassily Chair is a registered trademark of Knoll, Inc., manufactured by Knoll according to the original and exacting specifications of the designer. The outcome of the grand stand school of design, the Bauhaus.

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