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14 Responses to “Did Xerox Tower Influence the Original Twin Towers?”

  1. Bill Y says:

    I dont’t know. Aren’t these all pretty much take off’s on Mies’ Seagrams tower? To me they are all just continuation of Modernism right? Unique, no, groundbreaking, no. Phony? Seems a little harsh. But I’m not really a serious archecture buff so maybe I’m missing some important nuances.

  2. jimmy says:

    Bill that is a good point. The Seagram Building was completed in 1958. But Welton Becket’s architecture style suddenly changed to look like Yamasaki’s in about 1964. Other examples are The Equitable Life Building in Los Angeles and Pomona, California’s City Hall, both completed in 1969.

  3. Ben says:

    As a local architectural designer I can say that these are definitely in the vein of Mies and the international style that grew out of the Bauhaus school in Germany in the 1920′s. All posses the elements of strong vertical lines, lack of ornament, an open ground floor with columns, curtain wall glass facades …
    I’m sure the architects and draftsmen who designed and drew the details for the Xerox tower would disagree on the point of a phony building, whether it is beautiful to contemporary standards is irrelevant to its validity. It was constructed to serve an intended purpose and still stands up today. you may call it uninspired but phony is a bit harsh.

  4. Jason Haremza says:

    I agree with Bill Y. and Ben. The Xerox Tower is not unique or groundbreaking, but it’s also not “phony.”

    In my observation as an urban designer, the development is a rather lovely interpretation of modernist design. The clean, spare, elegant lines of the building and plaza, and high quality materials, work together to contribute to the city’s skyline and a create a well designed public space at ground level.

  5. jimmy says:

    Yamasaki claims to have developed his style from his visit to Japan in 1954 – https://www.reuther.wayne.edu/node/8178 and his use of thin windows and vertical columns is the result of his fear of heights. But I would agree that the Seagram building to a certain extent did influence his designs, and thus the Designs of Welton Becket.

  6. Chris Brandt says:

    Jimmy,

    I also find your argument hard to agree with. Yamasaki’s towers possessed a odd formalism to them as embodied by the stretch arched colonnade that makes up M&T Tower in Buffalo and the gothic like arches of WTC. Furthermore, there is a significant different between Yamasaki’s towers and how Beckett designed the Xerox Tower. Yamasaki’s towers much like Mies’ Seagram Building, 860-880 North Lake Shore Drive, and others present pure plan extruded towers with articulated perimeter structural members that meet the ground rather abruptly, with a typical double, or triple height lobby serving as the threshold between ground and building. Beckett’s Xerox tower is rather unique in that the tower dramatically swells at its base and seemingly floats above its plinth upon bi-pyramidal supports (which interestingly enough are also pulled inward from the perimeter of the building, unlike Yamasaki or Mies). In addition to this design notion of “floating” the lobby itself is rather short by comparison perhaps highlighting the close proximity of the mass of the tower just above the plinth.

    There can also be considerations about the treatment of the facade of the building. Xerox Tower was the first of its kind, using slip-form cast concrete instead of the visually and physically lighter steel predominant in many International Style towers like Mies, or Yamasaki’s WTC.

    I personally see Xerox Tower as being rather unique and part of the evolution of the skyscraper away from the pure extruded glass and steel boxes of the 1950s-1960s toward something more sensuous, like Lincoln Tower, just a few blocks over and completed 5 years later, designed by John Graham (architect of Seattle’s Space Needle).

  7. Doug says:

    I agree with Chris on this one. I believe the Xerox Tower is right in line with the times, as everyone started using that international style of architecture. It’s not that it’s a copy of other buildings designs, that’s just the style. The big box, professional look for office buildings.

    WTC varied a little with the arches at the bottom, giving it some character when compared to other glass box towers. Additionally as pointed out by Chris, the flare at the bottom of Xerox does a similar thing and distinguishes it from other buildings that are similar designs. That and the constructionm materials/techniques put this building in its own place in architectural history. It doesn’t pop out like WTC but is definitely important.

  8. Can’t resist adding my 2 cents… “phony” may have been the wrong word to use… unoriginal, uninspired maybe even. On the topic of the “flare” at the bottom, and the way the building floats above the street, here’s a better photo of that feature…

    It’s definitely interesting to look at. But this is one of those spaces downtown where no one ever goes. I often wonder if the architects intended, or even considered that. Maybe there’s more happening up on the other side of that street wall / platform and I’ve just never been drunk enough to want to go up there and check it out. It’s completely unapproachable. Urban design “Fail.”

    I know, I’m being harsh. I take design critique all day long, so I like dishing it out when I have the chance ;-)

  9. Jason Haremza says:

    I will agree, the Clinton Avenue side is forbidding for the pedestrian. But try the slightly lower Broad Street side where the wide steps lead up to, I think, a really lovely plaza.

    The fact that “no one goes there” has more to do with the programming than the design. There’s nothing to do there, so there’s no reason to go there. If there were a great restaurant in the lobby, with outdoor seating on the plaza, it would be a much more active space.

    The more recent ESL Building does a better job in terms of being “approachable” with the building more or less at grade, with lots of transparency, but the street is still pretty dead because it’s a bank and there’s no reason to linger and occupy the space.

    However, you do raise an excellent point. If you are not going to program or activate outdoor space, especially quasi-private outdoor space, then don’t build it.

  10. Carl says:

    The Xerox tower and the WTC towers have always been among my least favorite buildings. In describing the Xerox building, my great-uncle summed it up neatly in describing it as being “as ugly as sin”.

  11. irene says:

    Many years ago there was a skating rink in the plaza, and I think a bar/restaurant in one of the lower buildings facing the plaza. The auditorium gets used at Jazz Fest but not much else. The steps up and walls common to plazas of that era do discourage people. Maybe the city could allow food trucks on Clinton by Xerox and Buckingham could put tables on the plaza and allow buskers.

  12. jimmy says:

    I think the stubby lobby makes the building look taller and more massive up close. The final design of the WTC was released to the public on January 18 in 1964. Xerox tower design was released June 10 1964. I am convinced that the exterior appearance of the Xerox tower was greatly influenced by the design of the WTC.

  13. Dan Palmer says:

    As an architectural historian it is these connections and homages that get me excited! They tell the story of the people behind the buildings. Architects interact with one another and they influence and ape each other’s work.
    See: Richardson Romanesque – a style named for an architect.
    It does not make the buildings they design phony.

    Try looking at the SUNY Brockport extension near St. Joe’s park and the inner loop and tell me that the local architects who designed it – Ribson And Roberts I think they were called – weren’t influenced by Lou Kahn’s Richards Labs?

    There’s a dorm in Albany that looks a lot like Kevin Roche’s administration tower at RIT – well, the architect of the Albany building worked directly for Roche during the last years of Eero Saarinen’s firm.

    Imitation is not only the sincerest form of flattery, in the architecture business it is the lifeblood of design!

  14. Douglas Fisher says:

    Joseph C. Wilson, President of the Xerox Corporation, and the driving force behind this new corporate headquarters building, was inspired by Rockefeller Center for the base of the new Xerox Tower.

    He commissioned the ice-skating rink, a bit smaller than the rink at Rockefeller Center. The Xerox rink was overlooked at the same elevation by the Shakespeare Restaurant, utilizing themes from plays by Shakespeare, such as cuisine “As You Like It.”

    As in Manhattan, diners at the Shakespeare Restaurant could watch ice skaters in action. Today’s incarnation of the analogous Rockefeller Center restaurant is the Rock Center Café.

    Larry Glazer, whose firm Buckingham Properties is purchasing the Xerox Tower, has indicated that he may resurrect its ice-skating rink and companion restaurant.


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