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SONY/AT&T Building

Foundations of America

QU201 Prof. Scott Leone

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SONY/AT&T Building



The Development of the AT&T/Sony Building

The Sony Building of New York City is an iconic structure built with incredible poise and talent. The former AT&T Building is 647 feet high and has over 37 stories high. The high-rise skyscraper in Manhattan is situated at 550 Madison Avenue between 55th Street and 56th Street. The construction ended in 1984 and the architects that designed the beautiful masterpiece were Philip Johnson and John Burgee as his assistant. The structure had very interesting and different appeals to it. The top of the building had an oval type circle called an ornamental top, also referred to as “Chippendale”. It displayed a beautiful archway in the entrance of the building. It was at least 7 stories high. It was very unusual and first of its kind. “With these ornamental additions, the building challenged architectural modernism’s demand for stark functionalism and purely efficient design. It is therefore considered by many critics to be a prime example of postmodern architecture.” It has been concluded that the Sony Tower was at the forefront of creating history and was the first to create a type of architecture that was so profound and beautiful.

Being the first Postmodern building, it contained “ornamental pink granite neo-Georgian pediment”. All granite used was unpolished stony creek granite. The grey pink granite known as stony creek granite comes from the same quarry that provided the front of Grand Central Station, which is located a few blocks from the Sony/AT&T Building. The building is such a complex structure built inside and outside to impress any eye. The stony creek granite columns on the outside of the building let the eye go upward. When guests approach the entrance, they are introduced with decorative cuts and turnings. When viewing it from across the street, the color and richness of the granite is so evident that you can see the pink perfectly. The reason for the granite to be unpolished was to create the illusion that it is soft and comfortable. When creating the base for the AT&T Building, Johnson used the base modeled by the New York Municipal Building. The modeling could be related to famous arches or building types in European countries. Although using different references and decorations to form a new building, it “brought back the representational and historicizing architecture of New York’s skyscrapers” (Johnson 2). The old is getting mixed in with the new that is adding to the modernism of NYC but meshing some old forms to create a better structure.


Sony/AT&T Building


In October of 1978, AT&T received permission to build the building. They were able to construct almost 82,000 sq. ft. of space. Because they were allowed to construct that much, the architects had to build a museum for communications and provide space for tourists or the public. The building complied, so they were granted an extra 14,000 sq. ft. to do whatever they so chose. The previous headquarters to the AT&T Building was located on 195 Broadway. They would have to move most of their employees, as much as 600, to the new location and move the rest to the other AT&T location in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. In 1982, the company had to find tenants for half the building and selling each square foot for $60. When moving out of the old building, AT&T did not want to change much concerning their company. They wanted everything to be a simple and cost effective change. The bronze statue outside of the old AT&T Building was taken apart and brought to the operation headquarters in New Jersey. The Spirit of Communications statue was 20,000 lbs and 22 feet high. It was a structure that could not be wasted but was not allowed in the new building. In 1984, due to zoning issues, the museum could not be allowed. Instead, they build the annex that still is there today that connects the walkway for pedestrians. Due to a tax break given to AT&T and under constant scrutiny, the building was sold to Sony on 1992.


Spirit of Communications Statue


Sony wanted to make some changes. They wanted to convert some parts of the multi-story atrium into retail space and rent it out to retailers. Sony wanted to comply with zoning, so they agreed to add more space to the pedestrian walkway and add more open public space. Sony headquarters thought they were adding more space and providing more retail opportunities for the best of the population. Since the building was on Madison Ave., it would only made sense to provide more retail space and give more retail value to the building and the companies that would eventually move into the rented space. In 1996, Sony bought out space across the street where renovations were done on the lobby, bathrooms, and windows. Through 2013, Sony signed rent leases where each square foot was $34. Sony eventually connected the two buildings. Using fiber optic cables, they also created microwave communications equipment necessary for the businesses and buildings to become closer together.

Along with the beautiful outer structure of the stony creek granite, the inside of the building is just as spectacular. The architecture is so complex that some builders, contractors, or architects would ever dream of constructing something like this. There is so much detail and features associated with every step you take. When walking into the building, people are welcomed by the sun. The atrium is full of glass ceiling with radiant light shining into the building. The first floor of the atrium includes an arcade, stores, a restaurant, and public open space for people to relax and drink coffee from the café. In the building, there is the Sony flagship store that is a respective two floors. There is also a four story annex that connects to the roof of the atrium to the other side of the street. The annex connects to the Sony Wonder Technology Lab. The Lab is a type of museum for all ages that are interested in the future of technology, science and entertainment. This area replaced what had been the Infoquest Center constructed by the AT&T Building. The Infoquest Center was an exhibit created for the Building, where its purpose was for telecommunications. Now the Technology Lab is open almost every day to the public audience for children and adults alike. Sony wants people to become knowledgeable about technology for what comes next. They want the population to know what they know and the Lab will give them insight as to what they are doing.

There might be a lot to learn about one building but to learn more about the stone, itself, and where it came from is just as important and will benefit from it. Stony creek granite can be traced back to 600 million years ago where unordinary processes were taking place. Intense pressure and increased and decreased temperatures played a role by which magma started forming, then cooled, then the solid substance. Where the plasma ended up was the Connecticut River which ultimately led to the water. “The ‘long water’ river shafted eastward since the last ice age, exposing the luxurious pink granite throughout the remaining Stony Creek area and Thimble Island region.

The first piece of pink granite was found and first quarried in 1858 by Benjamin Green. One was called the Branford Granite Co. What made everything move so much easier was the arrival of trains in 1852, which was beneficial for the workers, the industry, transportation, and labor. Quarry workers came from all over the world and made Stony Creek, CT their permanent residences. Quarry workers were French, Spanish, Italian, Irish, Finnish, English, or Scottish. Other quarries included the Stony Creek Red Granite Company, Norcross Brothers, and the Guilford’s Beattie Quarry. The Red Granite Company was created in 1876, taken over by New Yorkers and eventually renamed it the Stony Creek Red Granite Company. It was right next to the Castelluci Quarry. The Norcross Brothers heard about the stony creek in 1887 and bought property. They built Quarry Rd in Stony Creek and built various things for the railroad tracks. The conditions in the 19th century were so difficult and every piece of equipment was so simple. It was so dirty and black powder scattered everywhere. The Norcross Brothers were in charge of West Point Monument. 75, 000 lbs had to be transported down the Hudson River and up by train to West Point. The quarries in Stony Creek and the companies have been a highlight of the town ever since the 18th Century where tourists and villagers saw the beauty of the town. There were stores, restaurants, markets, and a movie theatre that made up the quaint village.

Today, much has changed with technology. Castelluci and Sons have new innovative technology where stone that can be cut in 3 months rather than the 200 years if they didn’t have the new equipment and technology. Johnson was one of the most influential and most well-known architects after the Sony Building was built. He was at the forefront of new architecture and architects that will always be referring back to his work for his advice. Castelluci and Sons because very popular. After constructing the Building, they became “one of the top five stone companies in the country”. (Charm 1) “The Castellucis ascribe the changes their company has gone through to a mixture of luck, ability and opportunity. Johnson’s liking for the pink flush of Stony Creek granite was a piece of luck, and the ability was always waiting in the wings. All they needed was an opening.” (Charm 4) It was a win-win situation for everyone. Johnson, Castelluci and Sons, and Stony Creek along with the other granite companies positively benefitted from the beautiful pink stony creek. People wonder how long the stony creek granite is going to last for in Stony Creek, but the villagers respond back for hundreds of years to come. The stony creek granite has benefitted many building including the Sony/AT&T Building and will benefit for many years with the advanced technology and complex architectural design.




Charm, R. (1986). Granite's rise to rick of this age puts providence stoneworkers in the pink; castellucci & son builds success on recent popularity of rose-colored stone. New England Business, 1-5.


At&t (sony) building, new york. (1984). Retrieved from http://www.galinsky.com/buildings/att/


Carroll, L. (n.d.). Stony creek quarries. Retrieved from http://www.branford-ct.gov/History/stony%20creek%20quarries.htm



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Flesh and Stone

Flesh and Stone - Stony Creek and the Age of Granite - buy at Amazon.com
Available on Amazon

Uncirculated: Shrink wrapped in clear plastic from original Italian publisher, 1999. Ships with fresh samples of sparkling Stony Creek pink granite for historians, collectors, geologists and classrooms. Additional samples available upon request.