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1001 Fifth Avenue: Review and Ratings

between East 81st Street & East 82nd Street View Full Building Profile

Carter Horsley
Review of 1001 Fifth Avenue by Carter Horsley

In the midst of the craze for Post-Modern designs, highlighted by its open-pediment, high-boy design for a new headquarters for A. T. & T. on Madison Avenue at 56th Street, the architectural firm of Johnson/Burgee put “part” of a large mansard roof on this 76-unit, mid-block, cooperative apartment building at 1001 Fifth Avenue between 81st and 82nd streets. 

The developer was Peter Kalikow. 

The 23-story building, which is directly across from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was completed in 1979. 

Philip Birnbaum was the associate architect for the project. 

The “part” was merely the front façade and the "false-front" design, which can be easily seen from the north or south, and it was very widely criticized.

Bottom Line

Something of an architectural folly, this limestone-clad apartment tower at a prominent site gathered great attention, and some derision, to Post-Modernism, but viewed "straight-on" from Central Park or Central Park West, it is an interesting paradigm of contextual architectural.

Furthermore, its residences offer bay windows facing Central Park, which are very rare on Fifth Avenue.


In the third edition to their great book, “The A.I.A. Guide to New York City,” authors Elliot Willensky and Norval White characterized the design element as "High-rise pretentiousness with an openly ersatz mansard roof whose true nature is apparent to any who care to look,” adding that it was “an architectural conceit raised to new heights." 

The tall screen roof element is supported by slanting buttresses and while the avenue façade is entirely limestone the other sides of the building are covered in buff brick. 

Despite this notoriety over the "billboard" roof design, the building is still impressive at street level with a very handsome entrance and a façade partitioning with rounded courses to complement the courses and cornice line of the supremely elegant neighbor on the block, 998 Fifth Avenue designed by McKim, Mead & White. 

The dark-gray bay windows and their connecting metal spandrels form strong vertical elements that negate the elegance of these horizontal strips. “And the 'honest,' or tongue-in-cheek, gesture of stopping the moldings short of the sides of the building may be amusing for those in the know, but their use just seems unresolved. It does not help that the moldings look like sliced-off Tootsie Rolls," remarked architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable in her book, "Architecture Anyone?" (The University of California Press, 1985). 

"The entrance, however, has the elegant Johnson touch. Designed originally as a Sullivanesque arch - a feature that was abandoned - it has turned out to be the least 'reminiscent' feature and the best part of the building," Huxtable, then the architecture critic of The New York Times, maintained. 

The mansard-roof element, of course, mirrors the real mansard roof of its low-rise mansion neighbor just to the north, the former Benjamin N. Duke residence designed by Welch, Smith & Provot. Also to the credit of Kalikow and his architects was the extensive use of limestone on the avenue frontage, something that few other "luxury" high-rises have done. 

The division of the avenue frontage into four bays of windows, wide at the ends and narrow in the center, reflects a preoccupation with fenestration patterns by Philip Johnson and John Burgee, the design architects for this project by Peter Kalikow. The strong verticality of the window patterns, however, does not work contextually with its neighbors. 

It has a canopied entrance flanked by two large and handsome landscaped beds and very attractive hanging lanterns.


The building has a concierge, a doorman, a live-in superintendent, a laundry, a fitness room and storage facilities.  It also has some fireplaces and is also pet friendly.


Apartment 22A is a two-bedroom unit with a 24-foot-wide living/dining room with a fireplace and a large bay window adjacent to a 17-foot-wide library with a small bay window, both on the avenue.  The unit has a long entrance foyer that leads to a10-foot-wide kitchen. 

Apartment 16C is a two-bedroom unit that has a 10-foot-wide entrance foyer that leads to a 23-foot-wide living room with a large bay window that opens onto a 15-foot-wide dining room with a small bay window next to a 13-footlong enclosed kitchen. 

Apartment 4C is a two-bedroom unit that has a 14-foot-wide entrance foyer that opens onto a 24-foot-wide living/dining room next to an enclosed 10-foot-long kitchen.


In their great book,”New York 2000, Architecture and Urbanism Between the Bicentennial and the Millennium,” Robert A. M. Stern, David Fishman and Jacob  Tilove, provided the following commentary on this building: 

“In the early 1970s, community groups vehemently opposed the plans of the property’s previous owner, Sol Goldman, who had intended to build a twenty-five story luxury apartment building in place of three townhouses: 1006 Fifth Avenue (Richard W. Buckley, 1899) 1007 Fifth Avenue (Welch, Smith & Provot, 1901), and 1008 Fifth Avenue (Welch, Smith & Provot, 1901).  Community Board 8, arguing that the Eighty-second Street block, including the stretch of Fifth Avenue between Eighty-first and Eighty-second Streets, should be preserved as the stylistically compatible architectural gateway to the Metropolitan Museum asked that it be designated a historic district.  The landmarks commission, however reporting that a large Metropolitan Museum historic district that would include the buildings was currently under study, refused to take up the case.” 

“In the meantime,” the authors continued, “Goldman demolished the two six-story houses at 1006 and 1007 Fifth Avenue and in 1977 sold the project site, which was still home to the extensively and unsympathetically renovated 1008 Fifth Avenue.  The buyer was H. J. Kalikow & Co., whose president, Peter Kalikow, announced his company’s intention to go forward with an as-of-right building under the terms of the Fifth Avenue Special Zoning District that, in return for a financial contribution to the city to assist in park maintenance in the district, would allow for a sixteen-unit density bonus.” 

“From the tenants’ point of view,” they continued, “Kalikow’s proposed 1001 Fifth Avenue was by most definitions an ordinary building in an extraordinary setting.  Although the building was to sit tight against the line of the Fifth Avenue street tall, the relatively low ceilings of the proposed building permitted twenty-three floors, nine more than the fourteen typical of the prewar luxury apartment houses that line the avenue’s park-facing blocks.  Nonetheless, according to Elliot Vilkas, an architect associated with the building’s designated architect, Philip Birnbaum, the firm was ‘trying to make [the new building] agreeable to the design of Fifth Avenue,’ letting it be known that 1001 Fifth Avenue was to be clad in light brick and glass, with two terraces per floor.” 

“The community and the editors of the New York Times,” the authors went on, “urged that activity on the Kalikow site be delayed until the public hearing of the landmarks commission scheduled for March 8, 1977, at which the museum district would be considered.  The Metropolitan Museum Historic District, including Fifth Avenue and side streets between Seventy-eighth and Eighty-sixth Streets, was approved on September 20, 1977, and ratified by the Board of Estimate on November 3, 1977.  But on March 1, 1977, after weeks of argumentative opposition, and seven days before the public hearing, wrecker began to tear down 1008 Fifth Avenue, a move that allowed the Neighborhood Association to Preserve Fifth Avenue Houses to obtain an injunction against the construction of Kalikow’s apartment building.  Though this failed to save the townhouse, it resulted in an unusual compromise: a court order ‘specifying that the building, a neighborhood group, and the Landmarks Preservation Commission review together the plans for the twenty-three-story luxury building so that it will harmonize with its surroundings.’  The agreement required that the local group and Kalikow each retain architects to help them review the plans and that in case of stalemate they return to court for a decision by an impartial third-party  architect.” 

“James Stewart Polshek,” the authors maintained, “who was selected to represent the community group, prepared studies that, according to Ada Louse Huxtable, ‘explored ways to make the project more compatible with its setting,’ raising the ‘standards of design and sensitivity that were essential to the site.’  The studies were made available to Kalikow, who in turn commissioned Philip Johnson and John Burgee to undertake the exterior design while keeping Philip Birnbaum’s existing apartment plans.  Elaine Hochman, a local resident and architectural historian known to Kalikow and Johnson, oversaw the collaboration.  In July 1977, as plans for 1001 Fifth Avenue moved along, Huxtable reported, ‘The Fifth Avenue house is turning out not only to be a far better building than anyone expected but also promises to be an architecturally interesting building (on the outside, at least) – a statement that can be made about very few speculative New York apartment houses, even of the ‘luxury’ variety.  Huxtable greeted  Johnson and Burgee’s classically inspired design  as ‘an intriguing  and unexpected solution,’ offering ‘a departure from modernist orthodoxy….Its eclecticism borrows, mixes and suggests references to its Beaux-Arts neighbors and to the architectural past in an  apparently arbitrary and highly unconventional  way.’” 

“Johnson,” the authors wrote, “faced with a building code that restricted projections to ten inches beyond the building line, a developer unwilling to lose any space, and neighbors insistent that the Fifth Avenue street wall be preserved, proposed a limestone-clad façade with columns of vertical gray-tinted windows and pewter fray metal spandrels that seemed more akin to the façades of 1930s classical office buildings than those of traditional apartment houses.  Nonetheless, the slight suggestion of bay windows did convey some impression of domesticity, even if the overall effect was one of explosive verticality.   The façade of the 250-foot-high building was articulated with horizontal moldings, said to have been copied from ones on the Villard Houses, sliced through by the vertical bay windows in a bold but decidedly untraditional way.   The moldings connected with strong horizontal lines on McKim Mead  & White’s 998 Fifth Avenue [1910], the apartment  building immediately to the south.  To Huxtable, the ‘deliberately flat composition…without the solemnities of ‘proper’  copying of the past’ was  a ‘high-wire act of ‘recall.’” 

“Though awkward, unresolved, and even jokey,” the authors concluded, “1001 Fifth Avenue touched a chord with the public.  The building not only looked, albeit in some strange way, like the apartment palazzo of its neighborhood, it also showed that the use of traditional form would help ease the way with neighbors for large-scale new construction proposed for historical settings.  Most important, it demonstrated that a building with a distinctive appearance designed by a noted architect could, in a way, make its own market by generating a lot of publicity.  The public clearly admired 1001 Fifth Avenue for its embrace of traditional architectural language, an embrace that suggested, by association, ‘class.’ The marketing success of 1001 Fifth Avenue made clear that a distinctive building, especially one that seemed consistent with the traditional fabric of the Upper East Side, would attract potential tenants who otherwise would not consider living in a new building….Uneven in quality though these buildings were, and meager, even inadequate, in compassion with their benchmarks from the 1920s, these ‘traditional’-style buildings did succeed in breaking the hammerlock hold of bland uniformity that had characterized post-war apartment house construction in the city.” 


Out of 44

Architecture Rating: 26 / 44

Out of 36

Location Rating: 29 / 36

Out of 39

Features Rating: 15 / 39


CityRealty Rating Reference

  • 30+ remarkable
  • 20-29 distinguished
  • 11-19 average
  • < 11 below average
  • 27+ remarkable
  • 18-26 distinguished
  • 9-17 average
  • < 9 below average
  • 22+ remarkable
  • 16-21 distinguished
  • 9-15 average
  • < 9 below average
  • #33 Rated co-op - Carnegie Hill
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One United Nations Park
between East 39th Street & East 40th Street
Murray Hill
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