Richard Meier & Partners Architects LLP

Swissair North American Headquarters

Melville, New York

1991 - 1995

The Swissair headquarters was conceived as a distinctive formal element that would stand in contrast to the nondescript suburban environment surrounding an adjacent intersection. A number of factors led to the decision to recess the building into the ground, thereby creating a lower ground floor. One of these was the need to meet local zoning and height restrictions while accommodating the requirements of the program. The recessed lower floor enabled us to provide an outdoor recreation patio on the sunny side of the building for lunchtime use by the staff. Another was the necessity to create privacy and to shield the building acoustically from the nearby Long Island Expressway. A substantial berm to the east and south also shields the forecourt from noise and exterior views.

The orthogonal circulation, open-plan workspace (designed on a module for flexible subdivision), and location of the cafeteria on the lower ground floor promote efficiency without sacrificing environmental quality or access to light, air, and surrounding views.

The southeast elevation facing the highway is closed in order to isolate the offices from the noise of the expressway. Its internal circulation space is lit by a roof light, and a long window in the fa├žade permits distant views.

The northeast end of the building overlooks a narrow sunken patio, while the southwest end accommodates services, the elevator, and lavatories, which are housed in three solid prisms separated by full-height glazing. The double-height, glazed northwest elevation faces a parking lot with demarcated bays that is treated as a parterre. This building may be seen as an emergent exurban office type that has been given a particular identity in keeping with the client’s prestige.

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