550 Madison Avenue officially unveils new lobby in Midtown East, Manhattan
YIMBY attended the recent unveiling of the newly renovated lobby at 550 Madison Avenue, a 37-story, 684-foot-tall office skyscraper in Midtown East. Designed by Gensler and developed by The Olayan Group and RXR Realty, the project involves a 21,000 square foot interior-exterior redesign of the 1984 postmodern monument to Philip Johnson and John Burgee. In addition to the updated lobby, which includes an art installation by contemporary German-Polish visual artist Alicja Kwade called Solid sky, the company will also provide a new cafe, raised and ground-level landscaping, enlarged seating with additional tables and a public washroom. 550 Madison Avenue runs between East 55th and 56th Street.
“The 550 Madison is a unique monument in New York City that carries a rich history,” said Erik Horvat, general manager of real estate at Olayan America. “Our goal with Gensler and other design partners is to add modern enhancements that will secure its future, while preserving its history. We are delighted that Gensler is reinventing the building’s lobby to create a beautiful and functional space that also respects the original design of Philip Johnson.
“We were inspired by the large volumes and spatial proportions of Hall 550 Madison and sought to honor its impressive scale with simple, classic and elegant shapes and materials,” said Philippe Paré, Principal and Design Director of Gensler . “The result is a space that is both silent and powerful; respectful, but not a reproduction; timeless, yet very contemporary.
“Alicja Kwade’s iconic artwork is a bold and striking move, very much in the spirit of Philip Johnson’s original design for 550 Madison,” said Alex Toledano, president of VISTO, the art consultancy from 550 Madison. “Solid sky respects the revolutionary architecture of the building, both integrated into its environment, while playing with them and defying them with its color, its weight and its captivating lightness. Kwade’s work also extends the building’s tradition of showcasing the work of renowned female artists, including the remaining murals by Dorothea Rockburne, and Evelyn Longman’s Golden boy, who previously resided in the building.
Photographs show the clean, minimalist lobby space with its triple-height vaulted ceiling and 110-foot-high vaulted entrance. Materials throughout the space include terrazzo, leather, and bronze mesh. Suspended 12 feet above the lobby floor and suspended from the center of the east ceiling Solid sky, a representation of the stone Earth Azul do Macaubas weighing 24 tons.
“This rock is the result of a metamorphosis that took place over a billion years ago and was created under great pressure and high temperatures,” said artist Alicja Kwade. “There is always something metaphysical and magical about a metamorphosis. Due to the blue color of the stone, the ball appears like planet Earth – very fragile and small, compared to the entire universe. It is an ambitious and moving project, which takes place in one of the most famous streets in the world.
550 Madison Avenue is also in the process of adding a new, triple-height, steel-framed, glazed garden space designed by Snøhetta to the west rear of the property. AECOM Tishman is the general contractor, Orange County Ironworks is the steel maker, and Gabriel Steel Erectors assembles the addition. Click here for more details on this building component.
Snøhetta’s glass roof and garden design will be completed next year.
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