Montreal’s ever changing cityscape has little to offer in terms of architectural sophistication, but its heritage is one that, nevertheless, needs to be respected and preserved, regardless of its visual calibre. One of its greatest protectors is Phyllis Lambert, scion of the influential Bronfman family and an iconic figure herself. An artist and architect, founding director of the Canadian Centre for Architecture, and a force to be reckoned with, she is now also the author of Building Seagram, a one-of-a-kind, intimate look into the history of this New York landmark.
Lambert was a 27-year-old artist living in Paris when her father Samuel Bronfman, founder of the Seagram distillery, asked her to take over the search for an architect to design his company’s headquarters in New York. Her choice was auspicious, when she decided to commission the pioneering modern master Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969), in collaboration with Philip Johnson (1906-2005). The building was completed in 1958, all 38 stories of bronze and glass set against the backdrop of Park Avenue, becoming an indisputable icon of twentieth-century architecture. In her role as patron, and Director of Planning for the project, Lambert had an enormous influence that, some will say, changed the face of American urban architecture. The book is not only the story of the building, but a personal recollection of a heady period in the author’s life, a personal history of managing such an enormous project, and her relationship with the larger-than-life personalities of van der Rohe and Johnson.

Building Seagram by Phyllis Lambert
Published by the Yale University Press
320 pages; 52 color + 141 b/w illustrations;
Cloth: $65.00. externe)

Phyllis Lambert
© Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal.