Two towers that almost replaced Grand Central

HyperboloidWhen Grand Central Terminal was built in 1913, the architects of the Beaux Arts train station expected it to be the base of a skyscraper someday.

In the 1950s developers proposed one. The tower design they commissioned had the space-age name the Hyperboloid: a wasp-waist, 80-story structure (at left) created by one of the century’s most innovative architects.

“Working for developers Webb & Knapp, I.M. Pei proposed an 80-story tower with a circular footprint and, thanks to a taper halfway up the shaft, an hourglass profile,” explains

Grandcentralmarcelbreuer“Its facade was crisscrossed by structural supports; overall the building resembled a bundle of sticks. At the base of Pei’s building, and again in its upper levels, the floors were left open and the structure was left exposed.

“Grand Central Terminal would have been demolished to make room for the tower, just as Penn Station was demolished a few years later to make room for Two Penn Plaza and Madison Square Garden.”

Plans for the Hyperboloid, of course, never came to pass. But it wouldn’t be the only tower proposed for the Grand Central Terminal site.

Air rights were sold to another developer in the 1960s, and architect Marcel Breuer came up with this (very Pan Am Building-like) skyscraper, which would sit on top of the terminal (at right).


By then, Grand Central had been deemed a historic landmark by the Landmarks Commission. A fight that went all the way to the Supreme Court in 1978 resulted in Breuer’s tower getting permanently derailed.

[Second image: The Architecture of Additions, by Paul Spencer Byard, via City Review]

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5 Responses to “Two towers that almost replaced Grand Central”

  1. Rich T Says:

    I.M.Pei must have been playing with Chinese handcuffs when he got the inspiration for that monstrosity.

  2. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    I believe one critic called it “a pile of sticks.”

  3. AC Walker Says:

    ? I think it’s stunning. The problem with NYC architecture is that so little of it is actually new or interesting. What was done by committee to the World Trade Center is an example of this.

  4. Rich T Says:

    AC; yeah, it might be stunning in the right place, but they were going to tear down a masterpiece in order to build it. I find it curious that Pei would (apparently) have been ok with that..

  5. moonstruck4 Says:

    Reblogged this on Moonstruck4's Blog.

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