See the lush Snøhetta Public Garden now open at 550 Madison Avenue

All photos courtesy of Barret Doherty unless otherwise stated

The new public garden at Philip Johnson 550 Madison Avenue The building opened its doors this week, the latest installment of the postmodern landmark renovation led by the Olayan Group. Conceived by Snøhetta, the Lush Private Public Space (POPS) is located adjacent to 550 Madison in a formerly gated mid-block walkway. Increasing the public space on the site by 50%, the half-acre garden is now the largest in Midtown East.

The garden connects to the newly renovated lobby, designed by Gensler to respect Johnson’s original arcade. The architects added a rear window in the hall that overlooks the landscaped garden.

The outdoor area has 48 trees, 200 shrubs, 6,300 bulb plants and 10,000 herbaceous understory plants. The garden also offers gender-neutral public restrooms and three food kiosks.

A 70-foot glass canopy covering the space can collect 93,000 gallons of rainwater each year to be used to sustainably water the entire garden. Snøhetta has worked alongside landscape and horticulture companies Phyto, The Dirt Company, SiteWorks, Arup and Adamson Associates Architects.

“Snøhetta’s design for the new garden transforms the streets surrounding the iconic 550 Madison building into an accessible, richly vegetated and highly visible public space,” said Michelle Delk, Partner and Landscape Architect at Snøhetta.

“A new lobby display and redesigned display cases honor Philip John’s original design. We are honored to help bring this important part of Midtown back to its visitors while contributing to New York’s famous vibrancy.

The public green space consists of five different sections centered around a tranquil body of water. These distinct sections feature “tree-filled bottoms” and “shrub skirts”, inspired by the vegetation found in the mountains of northeastern America.

Tree species found in the garden include Yellowwood, Sweetbay Magnolia, and River Birch, while plants found in the garden’s shrub border include Mountain Rosebay, Smooth Hydrangea, and Bottlebrush Buckeye.

Other plantings include a diverse distribution of regional native species including soloman seal, goat’s beard, black cohosh, bell coral and sword fern.

The garden’s flowering calendar has been programmed to provide a beautiful range of colors, including shades of pink, purple, blue and yellow, on different dates from February to October each year.

Eat Offbeat, which offers cuisines prepared by refugee and immigrant chefs, Local Roots NYC, which offers farm-to-table Chinese food and bubble tea, and Black Fox Coffee Co., a local cafe in the city of New York, settle in the kiosks.

“The half-acre garden at 550 Madison is an inviting new green space, providing a lush and elegant environment in central New York City,” Erik Horvat, managing director of real estate at Olayan America, said in a statement. . “The garden’s avant-garde design and meticulous maintenance position it among the most beautiful public spaces in the city, while providing a dynamic amenity for the tenants of 550 Madison.”

© James Ewing courtesy of Gensler

Philip Johnson and John Burgee designed 550 Madison in the early 1980s as the world’s first postmodern skyscraper. The 41-story building first served as headquarters for AT&T and later for Sony. It was acquired by the Olayan Group in 2016 for $1.4 billion.

The skyscraper was landmark in 2018, protecting the structure’s iconic facade and crown after Olayan Group and development partner RXR Realty announced plans to renovate it.

To attract tenants, the building offers over 30,000 square feet of luxury amenities. A 7th-floor amenity space designed by the Rockwell Group includes health and wellness-focused benefits for tenants, such as a fitness center and healthy food and beverage options.

The building is 50% leased. Corsair Capital, Hermès and insurance company Chubb have so far signed up as tenants.

The garden is open to the public every day from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. all year round.


All photos by Barret Doherty unless otherwise stated

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Downtown East