Olayan Group and Snøhetta held a ceremony with elected officials and city leaders to open a new, half-acre public garden at 550 Madison Avenue between 55th and 56th streets in Manhattan. The opening of the Garden, the first new green space in Midtown in decades, comes as Olayan completes the repositioning of the iconic 550 Madison Avenue office tower, New York City’s youngest landmark.
Designed by Snøhetta, the Garden is located adjacent to 550 Madison in the location of a formerly enclosed mid-block passageway. The garden is substantially larger than other local public spaces with 48 trees, 200 shrubs, 6,300 bulb plants, 10,000 herbaceous understory plants, gender inclusive public restrooms and three kiosks with food and beverage offerings.
A view looking through the new arch-topped Garden window added by Snøhetta to the redesigned lobby. The window allows for clear views through the tower from Madison Avenue. Photo: Barrett Doherty. Craig Dykers, Snøhetta Founding Partner, said, “Like many New Yorkers, we yearn to connect with the outdoors, and this collaboration with Olayan offered our team an opportunity to reposition the heroic 550 Madison tower for a new age while reestablishing how the tower meets the city.”
“Snøhetta’s design for the new garden transforms the streets surrounding the iconic 550 Madison building into an accessible, lavishly vegetated, and highly visible public space. A new lobby window and redesigned storefronts honor Philip Johnson’s original design. We are honored to help return this important part of Midtown to its visitors while contributing to the celebrated vibrancy of New York City,” added Michelle Delk, Partner and Landscape Architect, Snøhetta.
“The half-acre Garden at 550 Madison is a welcoming new green space, offering a lush and elegant environment at the center of New York City,” explained Erik Horvat, Managing Director of Real Estate at Olayan America. “The garden’s cutting-edge design and meticulous maintenance positions it among the most beautiful public spaces in the city, while providing a dynamic amenity to tenants of 550 Madison.”
Built around a tranquil water feature and five sections centered on different focal structures, the 21,300-square foot garden is nearly twice the size of a previous public space in the same location. The garden’s bloom calendar is carefully timed for plant species to offer a wide range of colorful hues, from pink to purple, blue and yellow, at different blooming dates from February to October each year.
The Garden is arranged as a series of immersive outdoor rooms, each designed to encourage social interaction. The bench above encircles a communal hearth that creates a warm spot to sit during the winter months. Distinct, “upland,” “lowland” and “sheltered” garden sections feature tree-filled backdrops and shrub skirts, drawing inspiration from Northeastern mountain vegetation ranging from fine-textured and airy to thick luxuriant foliage.
Mountain Rosebay, Smooth Hydrangea and Bottlebrush Buckeye fill the garden’s shrub skirt, with a tree assortment including Yellowwood, Sweetbay Magnolia and River Birch. Planters host a diversity of regional native species, from Soloman’s Seal, Goatsbeard and Black Cohosh to Coral Bell and Sword Fern.
Working alongside Snøhetta on the garden was a team of leading landscape and horticulture companies, including Phyto, The Dirt Company, SiteWorks, Arup and Adamson Associates Architects. The 41-story, 850,000-square-foot 550 Madison began as a single-tenant headquarters for AT&T when it opened in 1984.
The building’s new garden is part of a six-year effort by Olayan to reimaginethe high-rise – New York City’s youngest historic landmark – with wellness initiatives, sustainability programs and more than 30,000 square feet of luxury amenities.
The revitalized Privately-Owned Public Space (POPS) at 550 Madison Avenue provides a collection of sociable gathering spaces linking 55th and 56th Streets.
The new Garden is located under a steel and glass canopy and is filled with trees, shrubs, and grasses that will delight visitors across the seasons.
In addition to the garden, building improvements include a Rockwell Group-designed club-level amenity space that promotes collaboration and creativity, including a concierge overseeing the Grand Hall, the Library, the Hearth Room, the Screening Room and the Pool Room. The club level also includes multiple dining offerings and kitchens for events.
The state-of-the-art fitness center at 550 Madison exceeds those of many luxurious private wellness and athletic clubs, with elegant space for health classes and workouts. And a new Gensler-designed lobby creates a cathedral-like experience, full of sunlight, bronze mesh materials, rust-colored leather and a greyscale terrazzo floor.
Sunshine from a soaring 65-foot arched-glass window spills light onto the building’s centerpiece artwork, “Solid Sky,” by the artist Alicja Kwade. The 1.2-billion-year-old, 24-ton spherical installation is made of Azul do Macaubas quartzite that was quarried in Brazil before being suspended by chains from 550 Madison’s vaulted, triple-height ceiling. Source by Snøhetta and Olayan Group and photos Courtesy of Snøhetta.