Unlike conventional New York office buildings that isolate the occupants and store them in cubicles, depriving them of a sense of their working community and limiting their physical environment to views of other similarly-stored inhabitants, this building creates an appropriate environment for this philanthropic organization -- space that allows members of the Foundation staff to be aware of each other, to share their common aims and purposes, and which assists them in fostering a sense of working family.
To achieve this, a high-rise solution was deliberately avoided. A building twelve stories high relating to the street line on 42nd Street established by the old zoning was designed to wrap around the west and north side of the property, leaving the east and south sides relatively open and thus giving the interior offices a view out over the park and across the river. This suggested that the building could have a courtyard, a garden, which is difficult in New York's winter climate. It was decided to have an enclosed garden.
Several ascending scales are used in the design: The first is the human scale relating to the office size, the windows, and the ceiling height. Next is the character and scale of 43rd Street, which is residential. Granite of a dark-purplish hue was used to relate to the color of these buildings. On 42nd Street is a heroic scale as the building ends the street, recognizes the park beyond, and acts as a gateway to the river.
In some respects, this latter scale is influenced by large highway and bridge construction; great structures with a marvelous, energizing scale. It seems appropriate to adapt some of that scale as buildings get larger and larger and, as in classical architecture, to develop a progression of scales. One other idea borrowed from bridge construction is the pragmatism of bridge and highway engineers, which dictates that concrete is used as a bearing element, bringing the forces right down to the ground. Steel is used as the spanning element. The building's stone-clad piers are of poured concrete, and the spanning members are of weathering steel.
The whole design emerges from a concern for the workplace, the proper placement of the building, and scale relationships to adjoining structures.