The firm Snøhetta has gotten the New York City Planning Commission’s go-ahead to create a public garden in the AT&T tower that went up in 1984 at 550 Madison Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, designed by Philip Johnson and John Burgee. The announcement marks the onset of the final phase of permissions required to renovate the 197-meter-tall office building, acquired by The Olayan Group in 2016.
The garden was part of the updated proposal that Snøhetta unveiled in 2018, drawn up after the controversy sparked by the 2017 initial design for the skyscraper’s renovation; a polemic that led to the building’s listing by New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, which in February 2019 approved the definitive renovation project.
The garden scheme reinvents an existing public zone on ground level. A new steel-and-glass roof is held up by slender white columns, referencing the curved glass roof that will be eliminated, as will an annexed building, to obtain 50% more space for the project.
550 Madison Garden is a privately owned public space (POPS) with evergreen trees, bushes, and a curtain of water to help block out external noise.It will be visible from inside the tower’s lobby, to be renovated by Gensler.
The garden includes a series of circular forms evoking the motifs of Johnson’s design, such as the large round window defining the main entrance and the arches of the foyer.
The renovation of the interiors is now ongoing and 50% done, the aim being completion in 2020.