Gordon Bunshaft

Scarano Architect
3 min readJun 5, 2023
Gordon Bunshaft

Gordon Bunshaft was an American architect and a leading proponent of modern design in the mid-twentieth century. He was born in 1909 in Buffalo, New York. He studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, earning his bachelor’s degree in 1933 and his master’s in 1935. Bunshaft joined Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) in 1937 and remained with the company for more than forty years.

Bunshaft was responsible for some of the earliest and most famous “corporate modernist” buildings. His open, circular design for the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden intrigues visitors along the National Mall and captivates lovers of modern art and architecture from around the world.

Bunshaft’s work was characterized by its simplicity, clarity, and orderliness. He believed that architecture should be functional and that it should reflect the needs of its users. He also believed that buildings should be designed to fit into their surroundings and that they should be constructed using materials that were appropriate for their purpose.

Bunshaft’s design of the Lever House skyscraper in New York City (1952) exerted a strong influence on American architecture. He was also the lead designer of many of America’s most historically prominent buildings.

Gordon Bunshaft was responsible for many landmark buildings such as:

The Lever House, NYC

One Chase Manhattan Plaza, NYC

9 West 57th Street, NYC,

Pepsi Cola Building, NYC

Banque Lambert In Brussels

National Commercial Bank Building in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Connecticut General Life Insurance headquarters in Bloomfield, Connecticut

Manufacturers Trust Company Building (1954) was the first bank building in the United States to be built in the International Style

The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, NYC

140 Broadway (formerly known as the Marine Midland Building), NYC

Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum in Austin, Texas

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC

National Commercial Bank in Jeddah, Saudia Arabia

Gordon Bunshaft’s designs were known for their modern corporate style with designs in stone, glass, and metal. His design of the Lever House skyscraper in New York City exerted a strong influence on American architecture. Breaking from the ziggurat-like masses of the previous generation of New York skyscrapers, Bunshaft’s tower was a seemingly weightless glass box. He also brought a high design sensibility to the process of making buildings.

Gordon Bunshaft brought a high design sensibility to the process of making buildings. He molded a group of disparate people into teams and had a remarkable command of materials and technical aspects of putting a building together. He understood how long it would take and how much it would cost. His job was to interpret his ideas.

Bunshaft was a Pritzker Prize-winning architect and long-time partner at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. He shaped postwar New York with sleekly elegant structures like Lever House, the Manufactures Hanover Bank, and the Pepsi Cola Building. His design of the Lever House skyscraper in New York City exerted a strong influence on American architecture.

Bunshaft’s work was characterized by its simplicity, clarity, and orderliness. He believed that architecture should be functional and that it should reflect the needs of its users. He also believed that buildings should be designed to fit into their surroundings and that they should be constructed using materials that were appropriate for their purpose.

Gordon Bunshaft was not an easy man and those who knew him were keenly aware of it. He was brusque, arrogant, and impatient with those who could not see the world as he saw it. He believed in making modern buildings, not in talking about them or, indeed, in talking about much of anything else. His personality was as spare as his architecture, and as unbending.

Gordon Bunshaft died on August 6, 1990, in New York City due to Cardiovascular arrest. He was 81 years old.

At Scarano Architect, PLLC, we appreciate the trials and tribulations that many famous architects faced. We recognize the contributions that Gordon Bunshaft has made for our country. One only has to travel to New York City to see some of his works. If you find that you need architectural services, please feel free to contact us today. We are happy to help.

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