Designtel - Citicorp Center

Citicorp Center [1977]

Hugh Stubbins/William Le Messurier

‘A skyscraper in the New York tradition, 59 stories. A multi-million-dollar investment in New York. New York is our town. We grew up here. We’re staying here’ – Citicorp advertisement copy, circa 1975.


Hugh Stubbins, an already established architect of bold skyscrapers, was to actualise his most ambitious and emblematic design in response to Citicorp’s brief, much in line with their ad copy as above. A striking form of aluminium and glass, with a 45° cut to the top end (reportedly to host never-installed solar panels) – this impressive stylistic feat was overshadowed by its structural rationalisation conducted. The structural engineer William LeMessurier had a more trying brief, with the NW portion of the site occupied by St. Peter’s Lutheran Church who allowed Citicorp to demolish the structure – on the condition that a new one was built with no structure from the overhead tower passing through it. Four columns to the base supporting the centres of each facade allowed the corners to cantilever 22m, freeing the Church’s plot and affording more plaza space below. A unique truss system in the form of inverted chevrons facilitated this and although the structure was heralded for its ingenuity, ultimately a wind load calculation error deemed the building structurally unsound, as famously revealed to LeMessurier by an engineering student in 1978. What ensued was a careful after-dark strengthening of the structure, primarily focused on reinforcing the bolt-joints with welded plates, saving what would have been a catastrophe as revealed to the public only decades later.

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