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architecture: May 2013 Archives

How a Montreal heiress shaped New York's skyline


The Seagram Building is known as one of the world's great architectural masterpieces. 

And it came to be, in part, because of the vision of a young woman from Montreal.

Phyllis Lambert is the founder of the Canadian Centre for Architecture, a philanthropist, and a member of Montreal's storied Bronfman family.

In the 1950's, her father Samuel Bronfman, head of the Seagram company, decided to move the company's headquarters from Montreal to New York City.

Bronfman wanted to a make statement with a new skyscraper on Park Avenue.

He sent some initial drawings to his daughter Phyllis. 

What happened next not only set Phyllis Lambert on the path to adopting architecture as a career, it also led to one of the most iconic and innovative buildings of the twentieth century: the Seagram Building, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. 

Phyllis Lambert has now chronicled that story in her handsome new book Building Seagram (Yale).

Listen to Jeanette Kelly's interview with Phyllis Lambert: 

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Pictured: Philip Johnson, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Phyllis Lambert in front of an image of the model for the Seagram building, New York, 1955.

Photo courtesy Fonds Phyllis LambertCanadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal.