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Courtesy of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners
Courtesy of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners

The 109-story Hyperboloid was to be the largest and most technologically advanced building in the world. It was Pei’s first skyscraper and would have been his biggest (nearly 300 feet taller than the 1,209-foot-high Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong).

The aerodynamically-contoured building was an engineering tour de force designed to distribute loads across its dense lattice-like perimeter structure down to 12 enormous V-shaped supports. The design permitted a variety of column-free interior floor plates for maximum use at greatly reduced cost, the structural steel requirement being significantly lower than in comparably sized buildings.

At a time when railroads across America were teetering on bankruptcy and looking to divest their vast real estate holdings, the Hyperboloid was greeted as a visionary replacement for the then derelict Grand Central Terminal. It would have provided New York with a stunning world icon (70% larger than the Empire State Building), an airy terminus for Park Avenue (unlike the thick-waisted building that now clogs the view corridor) and 3.8 million square feet of new office and commercial space. It also would have improved rail transit with new underground facilities, relieved surface congestion with streamlined traffic patterns, and provided a new public park in dense midtown Manhattan. For a variety of reasons, the Hyperboloid was not built, but Pei returned to its innovative perimeter structure years later in his iconic tower design for Polaroid in Kendall Square.


Main level plan / Courtesy of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners

Design Team: I.M. Pei, Design Principal; Fred M. Taylor, Edward L. Friedman, James Ingo Freed: Design Architects
Webb & Knapp Real Estate Development Corp.