snøhetta's design for 550 madison garden gets official approval from new york authorities

snøhetta's design for 550 madison garden gets official approval from new york authorities

following approval from manhattan community board 5 in december 2019, snøhetta’s design for the public garden and revitalization of ‘550 madison’ — the postmodern icon in new york designed by philip johnson and john burgee — has now received final and unanimous approval from the city planning commission. the design re-envisions the building’s privately-owned public space (POPS) as a generously expanded, densely vegetated garden. described by the architects as ‘a vibrant sensory retreat’, the scheme draws upon the site’s architectural heritage and the activity of the neighborhood.

image © snøhetta and MOARE (also main image)



‘privately-owned public spaces are a critical part of new york city’s public realm,’ says michelle delk, partner and director of landscape architecture at snøhetta. ‘urban life thrives in and around spaces that allow us to connect with one another and to nature. moreover, we need to make the most of the spaces we already have and recognize that they are part of a network that contribute to the livelihood of the city. we’re thrilled to be a part of renewing the future of this historic site.’

image © snøhetta and MOARE



‘philip johnson and john burgee’s vision for 550 madison was to create not only a unique office building, but a dignified and attractive community amenity with public open space,’ adds erik horvat, managing director of real estate at olayan america — the project’s developer. ‘snøhetta is restoring their intention for the open space with a reimagined new public garden that will further improve the vitality of east midtown. as the largest outdoor space of its kind in this district, the garden at 550 madison will be a new anchor point in the heart of midtown manhattan, and a huge amenity to the local community and our world-class office tenants.’

the space’s existing condition



the new garden — 50% bigger than the existing POPS — will open up the public space along the west end of the tower, transforming it into a series of interconnected outdoor ‘rooms’ that provide both quiet spaces and larger, more open areas. partially covered by a new glass canopy and formed by a series of intersecting circles in plan, the design team says that the geometry of these rooms takes cues from philip johnson’s playful use of circular motifs both at 550 madison and in his larger body of work. these rooms invite passersby to linger as they meander through, allowing the garden to accommodate a variety of experiences for its visitors.

axonometric view of garden, looking north | image © snøhetta



carefully selected plantings — including evergreens, perennials, and flowering shrubs — help create a garden that is responsive to the changing seasons and natural light conditions. in total, over 40 trees will be planted as part of the project. meanwhile, a central water wall, accessible from the garden and visible from the renovated interior lobby, will provide auditory relief from the commotion of the neighborhood. see designboom’s previous coverage of the project here.

garden elevation, looking west | image © snøhetta

garden site plan | image © snøhetta



project info:


name: 550 madison garden
location: new york, NY
design architect and landscape architect: snøhetta
architect of record: AAI
landscape architect of record: siteworks
horticulturalist: phyto
development team: the olayan group, RXR realty, chelsfield
previous coverage: october 2017, december 2018

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