The Seagram Building Redesigned

Seagram Building redesigned

Location 375 Park Avenue USA
Building Year 1958
Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Philip Johnson (1958)
Structural Design Severud Associates (1958); Jose Gustavo Garzon (2020)
Constructor Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, Inc. (1958)
Customer George A. Fuller Company (1958)
Products Used Kerto LVL

What if… New York´s Seagram Building was a hybrid building containing Kerto LVL

​Jose Gustavo Garzon won Metsä Wood’s Hybrid City Challenge competition by turning the iconic Seagram Building into a hybrid building. Garzon redesigned the building by combining Metsä Wood’s Kerto® LVL (laminated veneer lumber) with steel and concrete structures, resulting in a lighter and more sustainable skyscraper.

The Seagram Building located in Manhattan, New York, is regarded as a functional architectural masterpiece of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. In functionalism, form follows function, so the architecture and structure are simple and serve the purpose of the building. 

The structure of the 39-storey Seagram Building is a plain steel column grid wrapped in concrete and covered with bronze at square intervals. To make the building wind resistant, there is a heavy concrete core until the 17th level, and from the 18th to 29th levels there is a steel structure with struts. In the upper floors, the structure consists of simple steel posts and beams. 


Reduced loads and CO2 emissions

Jose Gustavo Garzon, a Colombian architect and builder, chose to turn the Seagram Building into a hybrid building in Metsä Wood’s Hybrid City Challenge competition. In his proposal, wood would complement concrete and steel. 

“The Seagram Building is an iconic piece of modern architecture history, but at the same time, a very expensive building with high energy consumption compared to similar buildings in New York. I wanted to reduce costs, loads and embodied CO2 and also increase the building’s energy performance”, explains Garzon, who won the competition.

Hybrid City Challenge, organised by Metsä Wood’s Open Source Wood initiative, called for hybrid solutions to make construction more sustainable, while maintaining efficiency using current building methods. The competition gathered some 40 concepts from 22 countries. 

Learn more about the competition

open Source wood

Hybrid construction

What if structure 

Fast, light and green with current methods

Garzon became inspired about the Hybrid City Challenge because he wants to promote hybrid construction.

“There is a need to construct more slender, sustainable and economical buildings in the market. Hybrid construction ensures that there is enough money and materials to build all infrastructure for the whole population on the planet”, says Garzon.

Garzon believes that hybrid construction is a great way to construct high-rise buildings that require the careful planning of wind loads.

”You see a lot of hybrid structures where concrete is in the bottom, steel in the middle and wood on the top, but the approach can have some stiffness problems due to the abrupt change from material to material. The way to guarantee the stiffness of the design is to combine changes in materials from below to the top, in addition to changes in materials from the core to the periphery, upwards and outwards”, says Garzon.

Garzon emphasizes that hybrid construction is efficient with the prefabrication and assembly of elements using boom cranes and special scaffolds. 

“The common building processes can be adapted to make the assembly cheaper and faster”, says Garzon.

Load-bearing structure

Steel and wood to support the loads

In the new Seagram Building, there is a soft decrease from heavy to lighter structural parts to handle the loads. With current expertise, Garzon imagined that the designers of the Seagram Building would use concrete in the core, steel in the structure, and wood for most of the slabs instead of steel beams and concrete slabs for the whole building. The number of wood slabs reinforced with light steel parts would increase as the building goes up, and they would be made with Metsä Wood’s Kerto LVL S-beams. 

​Concrete screens and slabs core with steel columns (2nd to 17th level) VERY HEAVY PART

One floor high steel outriggers

​Leaning steel columns around the core

Steel core with struts and concrete slabs (18th to 25th level) HEAVY PART

Wood slabs and wood columns on the perimeter, from 3rd to 39th levels

Steel structure and wood slabs core (26th to 39th level) LIGHT PART

In addition, there would be a very light steel mesh or curtain for wrapping the volume of steel and wood parts as an envelope, or in this case, the bronze mullions of the original façade, to assure stiffness from the 10th floor upwards. 

”The use of wooden slabs serves to reduce the section of steel beams required to support the total loads. Wood columns in the perimeter of the façade help to avoid uncomfortable vibration on the perimeter of each floor and break the thermal bridge for better energy performance”, says Garzon.

Engineered wood

Seagram building interior design 

Lower CO2 emissions

The use of strong and dimensionally LVL beams would bring many benefits to the Seagram Building.

“This kind of design would result in a 40% reduction in the weight of materials, a 68% reduction of embodied CO2, and also a 30% decrease in energy consumption. These are very important outcomes leading to sustainable construction”, says Garzon, based on his calculations.

Garzon adds that the use of wood completes a straight parallelepiped around the pyramid-shaped core, meaning that the size of the Seagram Building is the same from the first floor to the 39th floor. This is different compared to many current concrete and steel buildings which often become thinner as they go up.

“The new design has better resistance to vibrations and wind loads”, says Garzon.

Bracing  and Connections

Stability with steel

Light steel pieces are required to stabilize the new Seagram Building. According to Garzon, these could be, for instance, diagonal braces, cross braces, leaning columns, one floor wide outriggers, and belt trusses. 

Semi-rigid steel-to-wood connections

Garzon highlights that the steel-to-wood connections in the hybrid construction of the new Seagram Building must be semi-rigid as wood doesn’t stretch and wear down, thus making the connection stay strong. Semi-rigid connections also prevent perpendicular tension to wood and allow the damping process to dissipate wind-induced vibrations.

“Steel plate connections combined with steel bolts can dispel large tension forces”, Garzon says.

Fire safety

Mist sprinkling as a solution

As part of the fire safety plan, Garzon would place a modern high-pressure water mist sprinkling system in the new Seagram Building. The technical rooms, switchboards walls and electricity network would also be covered with plaster or similar material according to Garzon.


Seagram building interior redesigned 

More hybrid designs to come

Garzon is happy to have won the competition.

“I believe that I have the opportunity to plan more hybrid buildings, because constructors have started to understand the many benefits”, concludes Garzon.

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