Slipped through

Gordon Bunshaft

Lever House, 390 Park Avenue, New York

Designer: Bunshaft, Gordon (1909-1990); Morris, Sarah (1967-); Skidmore Owings & Merrill
Copyright: Danielle Tinero/RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection (2006)

Bunshaft spent his early years in New York, although he went to study architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Bunshaft was a partner in the New York office of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), and his earliest work, Lever House in New York, was SOM's breakthrough. This 1951 slick, curtain-walled corporate headquarters for the soap company, Lever Brothers, although modernist, is in the International Style with an exceptional attention to detail. Another of Bunshaft's works of the same period, the Manufacturers Hanover Trust Branch Bank in New York (1953) is considered a modernist gem.


The only house that Bunshaft designed is the Travertine House, built in 1963 for his own family. After his death, he left it to the Museum of Modern Art who sold it to Martha Stewart in 1995. Her extensive remodelling led to acrimonious disputes with neighbours so she sold it to Donald Maharam in 2005, who declared it decrepit and demolished the house.


Bunshaft was nominated as an individual twice for the Royal Gold Medal. As a practice, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill was also nominated for the medal several times between 1962-1983.