Unlike the neighboring Verizon tower, which has received continuous criticism since its completion in 1975 for its blank and ungraceful design, the AT&T Long Lines Building at 33 Thomas Street is a rare example of elegance in structures for modern utilities. As the name implies, this building houses the large long distance telephone exchange switches that connect US phone networks with international trans-oceanic lines.
Currently AT&T only owns two of the three main switches; the third belongs to Verizon. The remaining space in the building houses some local competitive exchanges, as well as a secure data center.
The Long Lines Building was designed by John Carl Warnecke, who is perhaps best known for having designed the memorial and eternal flame for JFK’s grave at Arlington. It was completed in 1974 at the tail end of the Brutalist period in architecture. Standing at 550 feet, the building has only 29 floors, each averaging 18 feet in clearance and able to hold twice the weight of a typical floor. Additionally, it was designed to be entirely self-sufficient, with its own power generators and the ability to survive for two weeks following a nuclear blast.
Its pink-hued granite façade has no windows, only massive ventilation openings at its middle and top; the six elevator and stair shafts also protrude from the rectangular building plan. Yet despite these massive overtones and otherwise nondescript features, the total effect is a minimalist beauty demands your respect.