The Wall Street Journal ( View Original )

510 Madison Avenue, Tower View at Night

Developer Harry Macklowe has had one of the most colorful careers in New York real estate. Most recently, he suffered one of the hardest falls of the recession, a collapse that forced him to, among other things, sell the GM Building.

But one part of Macklowe’s story hasn’t received much attention: his role as designer.

That role came into view earlier this month when Boston Properties agreed to buy 510 Madison Ave., the new office tower at 53rd Street that Macklowe developed during the last boom only to see it hit the market at the wrong time. Macklowe helped design the 30-story tower together with longtime collaborator Dan Shannon of Moed de Armas & Shannon Architects.

“I’ve been able to teach him about investments and he’s been able to teach me about design and architecture,” Macklowe said in an interview last week.

Macklowe and Shannon were constrained by zoning regulations that required a setback after 85 feet. But they took inspiration from features of well-known boutique office buildings in Midtown, including the exposed columns that support Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building and the lush terrace on top of the base of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s Lever House. At 510 Madison, the tower that rises out of the building’s six-story base is supported by a set of exposed girders, surrounded by a terrace reserved for tenants.

“Dan and I believe very much in classic architecture — not something that would be considered in vogue but something that will stand the test of time,” Macklowe said.

From street level, however, the most noticeable architectural flourish is the curving glass entry to a restaurant space on the 53rd Street side, shaped like a tall crescent lying on its side. The 25-foot-tall crescent is the one note of curvature in a design that, to passersby, is otherwise all straight lines and right angles.

“It was extremely important to me to create a graceful form which was a counterpoint to the extreme, flat rectilinearity of the structure,” Macklowe said.