The exterior column piers are clad in limestone and the walls between consist of green-tinted glass with thin, facade-high aluminium mullions and window-covered mesh spandrels.
The 179 m tall building was the tallest slab-formed skyscraper in the city so far, although eventually it became the shortest of the Center Extension skyscrapers.
The 5 meters high lobby makes extensive use of stainless steel panelling with gradual hue tinting. There are large murals by Fritz Glamer and Joseph Albers inside the lobby.
The building is set back 25 m from Sixth Avenue and 10 m from 50th Street to create streetside plaza spaces. The plaza is paved with wavy-effect multicolour mosaic which extends to the inside lobby.
At the time of its completion, the building's 48 floors of 2,600 m² were the largest in the world thanks to the column-free interior spaces, with the support columns rising outside the curtain wall, at 8.53 m intervals.
It differs in appearance from the later built "Sixth Avenue Center" skyscrapers, like the next-door 1251 Avenue of the Americas in having less vertical "stripe" elements and more of open glass wall surface on its facade.
Time-Life occupied 21 of the floors itself, with the rest rented out to various tenants.
The extension, driven by the Rockefeller Center Development Corporation, was to replace the existing low-rises with new office towers along the model set by the Rockefeller Center. Wallace K. Harrison was to head the designing of the buildings and use similar themes in the facade treatment to link the addition to the older skyscrapers east of the avenue.
The Time-Life Building was constructed for the Time-Life publishing company as the first building in the Rockefeller Center Extension across Sixth Avenue from the original Center.
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