How the Architecture of the Medici Palaces Inspired One Wall Street Bank

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How the Architecture of the Medici Palaces Inspired One Wall Street Bank

federal-reserve-bank-nycvspitti-palace

Federal Reserve Bank (top) and Pitti Palace (below)

Did you know that the architecture of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York was inspired by architecture of the Medici palaces? York and Sawyer, the architectural firm ran by Edward York and Philip Sawyer, designed the building with ornamental ironwork by Samuel Yellin, a Polish-American blacksmith.

In 1921, the committee overlooking the construction of the bank, held an architectural competition which York and Sawyer won and were paid $10,000 as well as 6% of the total cost of the building which was around 23 million USD. Samuel Yellin later approached York and Sawyer with sketches of his ideas. Philip Sawyer liked his drawings and agreed to a partnership. Yellin and his 200 employees then set to work creating the wrought iron bars for the windows and doors as well as the decorative yet functional lanterns.

Federal Reserve Bank

Federal Reserve Bank

The size of the three-tiered building is said to take after that of Pitti Palace, while its sand and limestone facade mimics that of Palazzo Vecchio. The ironwork and arches are borrowed from the Strozzi Palace. All were homes of powerful banking families during the Renaissance period. Each palace was owned by the Medici at one time. Strozzi palace was seized by Cosimo I de’ Medici after the death of Filippo Strozzi the Elder and was not returned to the Strozzi family for another thirty years.

In September of 1924 when the building was completed, the lowest vault was as deep as eighty feet below street level and fifty feet below sea level. At the time, it was the largest bank building in the world while Pitti Palace, at its completion around 1440, was the largest private residence in Florence.

Palazzo Pitti

Palazzo Pitti

York and Sawyer wanted to construct a building that symbolized what the Medici palaces represented to the Florentine public – power, durability and dependability.  They wanted the building to provoke in the public a sense of trust and confidence within the company. What’s the best way to do that? Construct the largest bank in the world. Just like the Medici did in Europe in the 15th century.

Post by Tessa Cole

2016-10-26T17:55:24+00:00 October 27th, 2016|