6. The building may be based on an unfinished Le Corbusier design

Villa Savoye in Paris designed by Le Corbusier
Le Corbusier was the mastermind behind Villa Savoye in France.

In 1959, Roth, Gropius and Belluschi drafted a plan of a larger building with an “elongated” octagonal plan and bold pre-cast concrete facade. Robert A.M. Stern, David Fishman and Thomas Mellins observed that the design was actually based on “a well-known prototype, Le Corbusier’s unrealized skyscraper for Algiers (1938-42).” Le Corbusier’s first version of his plan for Algiers, developed between 1930 and 1933, represented his concept of a utopian Radiant City. He aimed to create a giant motorway in Algiers and tear down buildings to construct a new business district, a controversial move for the architect behind Villa Savoye. The unfinished Algiers skyscraper, along with his many other plans for the city, would have ushered in a new era of modern urban planning, but his unrealized notes were quite possibly picked up by Gropius and the team as inspiration for the groundbreaking building.

Stern, Fishman and Mellins also related the Pan Am Building to Gio Ponti and Pier Luigi Nervi’s innovative Pirelli Tower in Milan. The Pirelli Tower featured curtain wall façades and tapered sides, and it was one of the earliest skyscrapers to deviate from the typical block form. It was also the second-tallest building in Italy until 1995.