Adventures In Lipstick-Themed Architecture

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And now, an example of resourceful beauty writing, as demonstrated by our fabulous intern Edith:

Dear ITG,

You've received postcards from a Valentine’s Day spent in Tulum, an anniversary in Cartagena, and a bachelorette party in Anguilla in the last couple of months, but this may be your first postmarked from a staycation (just a weekend, really) and a pilgrimage of sorts to Midtown Manhattan. Since I live in the neighborhood, no mode of transportation other than my own two feet was required, so I strapped on some Roger Vivier flats to dress the part (those signature silver buckles are the very stuff of Mayflower mythology) and headed due north. As I weaved through fellow pedestrians on Third Avenue, my destination loomed large above me. Looking up, I squinted my eyes to see the grandest monument to beauty in New York City that's not a Sephora flagship: Philip Johnson’s Lipstick Building.

Maybe you recognize his name from The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden at MoMA and his historical Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut. In the early ‘80s, a New York City real estate developer requested that Johnson and his partner, John Burgee, design a building whose shape was glamorous and distinct from the others on Third Avenue, while making everything on the exterior-facing side of the building a corner office. Johnson and Burgee conjured up a cylindrical building with three telescopic tiers, which invited visual comparison to a colossal, retractable lipstick tube. So once the Third Avenue postmodernist makeover was complete in 1986, the “Lipstick Building” nickname stuck. The 34-story skyscraper still stands out from its rectangular counterparts on nearby avenues, including Citigroup Center on Lexington Avenue, the giant, silver angled brush in the skyline. The Lipstick Building has often been fêted as Johnson’s sexiest project…and that’s saying something—the man designed a completely transparent house!

Also sexy? Controversy. No one can seem to come to a complete consensus on what color the Lipstick Building truly is. It's been described as rose, mauve, crimson, pinkish, red, and in architectural terms, red granite. After some investigative journalism, I decided that its color is best categorized as a dusty rose, like MAC's Velvet Teddy made cool again by Lily-Rose Depp. Inside, the lobby is marbled in warm tones with ceilings that measure up to 30 feet tall. The air conditioning blasts at a pleasantly cool temperature (typical corporate structure protocol). The receptionists are friendly. I did not go upstairs, mostly because I was not allowed but also because I had a feeling that stepping into the corporate offices above ground level would be the rude awakening of my architectural fantasy. Fittingly, the building has housed corporate tenants as iconic as the building’s facade: Bernie Madoff operated his famed Ponzi scheme on the 17th floor. Following Madoff’s arrest, the FBI leased the floor on a month-to-month basis. If those cornerless walls had ears…

My field trip to the Lipstick Building got me thinking about my next stop on my beauty itinerary… a train ride to Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks, the Claes Oldenburg sculpture on Yale’s campus, might be in the cards. Alternatively, I could visit the massive rouge bouche sofa in the Grand Central Oyster Bar’s ladies room without even purchasing a MetroCard. Readers, any suggestions of where I should embark next on my beauty tour of America? Leave your recommendations below!

xxEdith

Photographed by Edith Young. Take on Paris like a local with this postcard.