By Babak Bryan

Built to look like a modern day castle, 33 Maiden Lane (bounded to the north by John Street and to the west by Nassau Street) was originally supposed to be home to the expansion of the Federal Reserve Bank located just across the street. Designed by Philip Johnson and John Burgee, the building has seven “towers” capped with crenellated parapets that give the appearance of an armed defense and mirror the style of the original Reserve Bank. Built in 1986, this 27-storey building is a less than exceptional example of the Post Modern style Johnson and company came to represent. The Sony Building at 550 Madison Avenue (formerly the AT&T building) and the Lipstick Building at 885 Third Avenue are more successful, if not more controversial examples.

Perhaps most enjoyable about this building is the large interior arcade that connects to the massive Fulton Street subway station complex below and shades the tall glass-walled lobby within. The large over-scaled archway succeeds like so many of the other tall buildings in the area in trivializing man’s height. Though the Federal Reserve backed out of its original plans to relocate to this new “fortified” address across the street, in 1997 they agreed to lease space on the top 13 floors, giving some degree of validity to the otherwise unnecessary ornament. That said, it’s still kind of silly to imagine a skyscraper castle, but in the city of Gotham we would expect nothing less.

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