Lipstick Building in New York

Lipstick Building in New York – Why It Is Called the Lipstick Building

The Lipstick Building is a skyscraper located in Manhattan. This elliptical skyscraper has become one of the most famous sites in the city. However, you may have a few questions when considering this structure, like: “Why is it called the Lipstick Building, who owns the Lipstick Building, and where is the Lipstick Building located in Manhattan?”. Keep reading to gain the answers to these questions and many more!



A Look at the Lipstick Building in New York City

ArchitectPhilip Johnson (1906 – 2005) and John Burgee (1933 – Present)
Date Constructed1984 – 1986
Materials UsedSteel and granite
Height138 meters (or 453 ft)
LocationNew York City, New York, United States

Lipstick Building ArchitectureThe Lipstick Building located in New York City; ajay_suresh, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Lipstick Building in New York City is a peculiarly named structure, or at least, the commonly known name is rather strange. The building itself, which is a skyscraper in Manhattan, is actually named after the streets it intersects. It is 885 Third Avenue and/or 53rd at Third. However, we will be referring to it as the Lipstick Building for the sake of simplicity in this article. The skyscraper is not all that tall by modern standards at a height of 138 m (or 453 ft), but it has become one of the most famous New York skyscrapers of the second half of the 20th century.

The first half of that century led to the creation of some of the most famous buildings in the world, like the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building, but the latter half of the century tends to be drier.

One of the reasons for the heightened fame of the Lipstick Building in New York City in contemporary times is because of this building’s more unique presentation. The nickname for which the building has become known is thanks to the structure’s apparent resemblance to a tube of lipstick. Additionally, the lightly tinted color of the building’s façade has also contributed to this nickname.


The History of the Lipstick Building in New York City

The Lipstick Building in New York City started its existence in the early 1980s when Hines Interests, a real estate company, decided that it wanted to construct an office building. The site was purchased in 1981, the company hired its architects, and construction was soon underway on a new elliptical office building by 1984. Once the building was constructed, which mostly went ahead without any issues, and the building was open for business by 1986. In those first few years, the building was profitable, and tenants filled it up relatively quickly.

However, Hines Interests eventually decided to sell the building in 2004.It was then resold to Metropolitan 885 Third Avenue LLC in 2007.

This company went bankrupt three years later, and another investment group took control of the building IN 2010. They would then sell it in 2015, and another company would take over the building in 2021. So, who owns the Lipstick Building in New York City? The history of the ownership of this building is the history of one corporate acquisition after another. At present, the owner and operator of the structure is SL Green Realty Corporation. This company is a real estate investment trust, and its predominant focus is on office buildings.

Why Is It Called the Lipstick BuildingDetail of the top of the Lipstick building; East Midtown, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Other than ownership, one of the most famous things that happened to occur over the history of the Lipstick Building in New York City was that it was the headquarters of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC. For those unfamiliar with this name, this was the company operated by Bernard Madoff when he implemented one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history before his 2008 arrest.


The Lipstick Building’s Architecture

The Lipstick Building in New York City is made out of a combination of stainless steel and red granite. The Lipstick Building’s architecture is particularly noted for its elliptical design. This means that the building is constructed in a more circular or oval shape. This is only truly visible from a distance, and from up close, the building is not actually rounded but rather includes over one hundred sides that give the impression of circularity. The façade of the Lipstick Building in New York City is made up of over a hundred polygonal panels to produce this image, and from afar, it is a fantastic illusion.

In addition to this, the upper floors of the building sit atop a base that gives the building its signature setback design that has led to the building’s nickname. There is also a nine-story annex on the northeastern side.

As soon as construction was done, regardless of the official name of the structure, residents called it the Lipstick Building. The red granite exterior alongside the setback design gave the impression of a tube at the base and lipstick at the top, and, of course, the curved design contributed to this new name. The reason for the building having this particular design was also because the architects, who will be discussed in more detail below, felt that the Manhattan region made use of monotonous skyscraper design. The Lipstick Building was meant to be a response to that.

Where Is the Lipstick Building LocatedThe Lipstick Building seen from the South side in New York; Tdorante10, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Residents of the city picked up on the desire to make something different and unique to what had come before in the region, and the tapered design immediately resonated with people who were tired of the uniform design of other skyscrapers in the city.

The Lipstick Building in New York City has remained a prominent part of the city’s skyline ever since.


The Lipstick Building’s Architects

The Lipstick Building in New York City had two immensely prominent architects work on its design. One of them was Philip Johnson. This American architect was one of the most famous of the Modern and Postmodern architectural styles. He was a very well-known architect in his day, and he designed structures such as the Glass House in New Canaan, the Sculpture Garden for the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and 190 South La Salle Street in Chicago. In addition to the many famous buildings he designed, he was also put in charge of the Museum of Modern Art’s architecture department in 1930, and while there, he had a hand in the earliest works of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in the United States.

Over the course of his life, he won the very first Pritzker Architecture Prize, one of the most prestigious in the world, and the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal.

Who Owns the Lipstick BuildingMunson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute in Utica, New York (1960), designed by Philip Johnson; Kenneth C. Zirkel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

John Burgee, on the other hand, is not as famous as Philip Johnson. Burgee was the other architect of the Lipstick Building in New York City. He was a frequent collaborator of Philip Johnson, and the pair of them maintained a partnership from 1967 until 1991. However, after Johnson left the firm, the company soon went bankrupt, and Burgee retired. His history is not quite as illustrious as his partner’s.


We have come to the end of our discussion about the Lipstick Building in New York City. We have examined the Lipstick Building’s architecture, history, and the architects behind it all. This is one of the more famous New York City buildings of the latter half of the 20th century and a stunning piece of architecture in its own right. Hopefully, you learned a lot about this famous New York City skyscraper today, but remember that there are always more skyscrapers to learn about out there.




Frequently Asked Questions


What Is the Lipstick Building?

The Lipstick Building in New York City is a skyscraper in Manhattan. This is an office building that makes use of an elliptical design and is considered to be one of the more notable New York City buildings of the latter half of the 20th century.


Where Is the Lipstick Building Located?

The Lipstick Building is located in New York City. However, it is more specifically located at 885 Third Avenue. This is an avenue between 53rd and 54th Street in Manhattan. It is also located near several other famous skyscrapers, such as the Seagram Building and the Chrysler Building.


Why Is It Called the Lipstick Building?

The building known as the Lipstick Building is called that because of the elliptical shape that has led it to look like a tube of lipstick. Furthermore, some setbacks made it look like the upper portion of the building is rising out of the lower tube. This only adds to the nickname. The other reason is because of the slight tint of the building.


How Tall Is the Lipstick Building?

The Lipstick Building in New York City is not all that tall, coming in at only 138 m (or 453 ft) in height. However, because of the general uniqueness of the design and the lipstick aesthetic, it has become well-known in the city.


Who Owns the Lipstick Building?

The history of the Lipstick Building in New York City is the history of one successive buyer of the property after another. The first owner, and also developer of the structure as a whole, was Hines Interests, a realty group. The ownership then changed hands repeatedly until it finally came into its present ownership, the SL Green Realty Corporation.