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NYguy Oct 30, 2017 10:38 PM

NEW YORK | 550 Madison Ave (Renovation) | 647 FT | 37 FLOORS
Mixed feelings about this one.

Postmodern icon 550 Madison Avenue will get a contemporary Snøhetta revamp
The proposal has architecture critics fretting over the significance of the iconic postmodern building, which is not a New York landmark

OCT 30, 2017


Snøhetta has been tapped to reimagine Philip Johnson’s iconic postmodern skyscraper at 550 Madison Avenue as a contemporary office space with a newly transparent podium that “stitches the life of the building back into the street,” the firm has announced.

The renovation of the former Sony and AT&T headquarters comes on the heels of a deserted plan by developer Chetrit Group to convert the 1984 building into 113 condos, including a $150 million triplex penthouse. Chetrit Group sold the building to Olayan America for $1.4 billion in May 2016. It’s Olayan America with Chelsfield America that are now moving forward with the renovation of 550 Madison. The building is not a landmark, allowing the renovation to move forward unobstructed.

Snøhetta’s redesign will expose the base of the building by partially replacing its stone facade with an undulating glass curtain wall that will extend to the first two floors of the building. The renovation will also see the demolition of a neighboring annex building that will double the amount of public open space surrounding the building. That open space will absorb the mid-block passageway between 55th and 56th Street and include a “sensitively curated planting palette” as well as spaces for gathering.

The office building has remained largely vacant since Sony decamped from 550 Madison about a year and a half ago. The redesign will help to modernize the office spaces through targeted LEED Gold and WELL-certified renovations, along with upgrades like DOAS—a Dedicated Outdoor Air Ventilation System ensuring fresh air for office occupants—and the installation of a new digital infrastructure.

Since the renovation was announced this morning, the architecture community has responded with mixed reactions, particularly to the amendments to the building’s retail portion:

Mark Lamster, architecture critic of the Dallas Morning News, and New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman came at the proposal from opposing sides on Twitter this morning. “AT&T is one of the most significant buildings of the 20th century and a defining work of postmodernism,” writes Lamster, defending his position against the renovation.

“Of course,” Kimmelman wrote, “but it also is and has always been a failure at street level. Does that matter?”

“The ‘failure’ is overstated, and can be ameliorated with FAR less intrusive measures,” said Lamster. “This is a marketing ploy that compromises a landmark.”

Curbed’s own architecture critic, Alexandra Lange, has this to say of the proposed redesign:

Snøhetta's proposed alteration to the AT&T Building's Madison Avenue facade cuts Philip Johnson's groundbreaking postmodern tower off at the knees, upsetting the balance between its arched bottom and Chippendale top. The point of AT&T was solidity, a return to the old order of skyscrapers clad in stone instead of glass, though Johnson had fun with that tradition by making it look like a piece of furniture. Inserting an Apple Store-wannabe facade is trinkety and trendy and ten years from now, the next owners will want to change it again. AT&T deserves to be landmarked as one of the two defining buildings of postmodernism, alongside the Portland Building.

NYguy Oct 30, 2017 10:46 PM


Snøhetta has been commissioned to reimagine the 1980’s postmodern tower located at 550 Madison Avenue. The renovation is the first major project to be announced for New York City’s
East Midtown since its revitalization plan was approved earlier this year. While the recognizable top of the tower will remain a fixture of the New York City skyline as it has since its
completion in 1984, the new design will transform the base into an inviting street front, extending the lively activity of Madison Avenue further south to 55th Street. Moreover,
the adjacent public space will nearly double in size to create a lush outdoor garden for the public’s enjoyment. Snøhetta’s design will update the building with state-of-art systems
and breathe new life into the building’s public, retail and office spaces for the contemporary needs of one of the world’s most recognized avenues.

...Snøhetta’s design approach stitches the life of the building back into the street. Since 550 Madison was first completed, its fortress-like base created an uninviting street front,
which was then further compromised by a series of ground-floor renovations that effectively closed the building off from its surroundings. With the updated design, the stone façade
will be partially replaced at eye level by an undulating glass curtainwall. From the street, the reconceived façade dramatically highlights the multi-story arched entry while revealing
the craftsmanship of the building’s existing steel structure.

As part of the renovation, 550 Madison’s proposed public space will be converted to an outdoor garden, providing a verdant landscape with water features and trees as a respite
from the dense urban fabric of Manhattan. The existing mid-block passageway at the rear of the tower connecting 55th and 56th Street will be transformed into a serene public space.
By removing neighboring annex building, the design will allow access to open air and daylight while nearly doubling the amount of publicly accessible space. The revitalized public garden
makes itself visible from the densely-built streetscape with entrances anchored by vegetation, as well as through the reconfigured building lobby as a splash of color that catches the eye.
The design will allow access to open air and daylight, and the lush outdoor garden will be the largest within a 5-minute walking radius of the building.

The re-imagined 550 Madison reflects how we work and live in New York today. The design sensitively transforms a sculpturally monumental building and celebrates the experience
of the building where it meets the street. By updating this inward-looking tower for the 21st century, the redesign will foster a more vibrant, dynamic relationship between the building,
the city, and the people who inhabit it.

Design-mind Oct 31, 2017 2:06 AM

I can hear Philip Johnson rolling over in his grave.
Snøhetta can hold there own, so I don't worry about them ruining anything.
I have always hated how cold this building is at street level, with the Snøhetta design it has a more approachable presence.

NYguy Oct 31, 2017 5:06 PM


Originally Posted by Design-mind (Post 7970730)
I have always hated how cold this building is at street level, with the Snøhetta design it has a more approachable presence.

My main concern is that I've always felt the bottom of the tower played well off the top. It could be that they've made some changes at the top that haven't been revealed, but I don't know. The redesign itself is nice, but I don't know how much we are willing to change with this tower, one of the most unique in the city.

Anyway, it was just a couple of years ago that this was planned to be a luxury residential conversion.

New York's new most expensive home: Madison Ave. penthouse to hit market for record $150M

February 17, 2015


A penthouse condominium at the former Sony building at 550 Madison Ave. is slated to hit the market for an astonishing $150 million, making it the most expensive listing ever to come on the market in Manhattan.

Earlier plan for the base...

Futterman unveils 25,000 s/f retail showcase at former Sony Building

JANUARY 11, 2016


The Chetrit Group has tapped RKF to bring 25,000 s/f of retail space at the former Sony Building at 550 Madison to market.

Chetrit — which led the consortium that paid $1.1 billion for the 37-story tower — is converting 550 Madison Avenue’s former office space above the 14th Floor into high-end condominiums, while the space below will become a luxury hotel run by Oetker Collection Masterpiece Hotels.

NYguy Oct 31, 2017 5:17 PM

Some features of the tower...

Dac150 Nov 1, 2017 12:00 AM

I love that staircase … recall it from the original Wall Street when Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) was sneaking around the law firm which occupied those floors.

The proposed alterations to the base are tasteful, though I very much like the base as it currently is and am concerned about unknowns pertaining to the rest of the building. Like it or not, this building is a classic with a unique identity.

NYguy Nov 4, 2017 1:46 AM

Architects protest AT&T Building plans with "Hands off my Johnson" placards


Architects and preservationists including Robert AM Stern were among those protesting Snøhetta's plans for Philip Johnson's postmodern AT&T Building in New York today.

A small crowd attended a planned protest at the base of the Midtown Manhattan skyscraper this afternoon, carrying signs that read "Hands off my Johnson", "Granite is great" and "Save AT&T". Reporters from Metropolis magazine captured images of the protest, as did several Instagram users.

Among the pack was New York architect Stern, carrying a model of the building – replicating a 1979 Time Magazine cover that shows architect Johnson doing the same – and British architect and postmodernism enthusiast Adam Nathaniel Furman. It was organised by filmmaker Nathan Eddy, who also launched a petition against the project.

The group was rallying against a proposal to replace the iconic skyscraper's base with a scalloped glass frontage, unveiled by Snøhetta earlier this week.

The design triggered outcry from several members of the architecture community, with two online petitions – Eddy's and another created by Swiss journal Archithese – launched shortly after it was revealed.



In Europe and unable to join the protest tomorrow Friday 13:00-16:00 in front of the historic AT&T building by Philip Johnson to object to the proposals to eradicate the original base. I was never sympathetic to the short lived post modern movement - and this building in particular. However it is an important part of our heritage and should be respected as such.

“Hands off My Johnson,” Say Architects and Preservationists at AT&T Building Redesign Protest
Robert A. M. Stern was among those protesting outside Philip Johnson's Postmodern icon on Madison Avenue today.

By Zachary Edelson and Anna Fixsen


Among the protestors were members of the preservation group DOCOMOMO, the Historic Districts Council, and a number of architects and advocates. Architect Robert A.M. Stern joined the rally at the urging of his architecture studio. “It’s one of the most important buildings of the last third of the century,” Stern told Metropolis. “After the Seagram Building, you basically have AT&T.”

Architectural significance aside, Johnson’s Postmodern icon has long been a lightning rod for criticism, though numerous design figures have rallied against the proposed changes, with Norman Foster and Adam Nathaniel Furman quickly voicing their support. Others, such as Denise Scott Brown, have suggested that the revamp has laudable features, such as an increase in public space. Though a New York fixture, the building is not landmarked, meaning Snøhetta’s proposed changes can be executed without a major review process. (Protestors are petitioning the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission to intervene.)

Nathan Eddy, the filmmaker who organized the protest, told Metropolis, “I understand that a lot of people hate Philip Johnson and hate the AT&T building, but this building is historically important and should be preserved.” Eddy, who was born in the U.S. but is based in Berlin, makes films about endangered buildings including Prentice Women’s Hospital, and most recently, the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago. “As someone who is really good at rattling the chains of the hoi polloi, this is a way I can contribute,” he said. “We’re going to win, by the way. But no matter what happens, if we get busy Manhattanites to look up and say, ‘Wow I’ve never noticed that building before’ and have an opinion about it, that’s the way forward.”

The redesign would leave the tower’s famous Chippendale top untouched, though the suggested modifications would come in two major areas: the first is the building’s Madison Avenue street front, which Snøhetta, in a press release, called “fortress-like” and “uninviting.” As per the architects’ design, the large glass facade would expose the building’s structure as well as its atrium, lobby, and first two levels.

Busy Bee Nov 4, 2017 2:36 AM

Hands off My Johnson


Best picket sign since:

pico44 Nov 4, 2017 8:38 AM

Infuriating. This can't happen.

Snohetta can suck a bag of balls

NYguy Nov 6, 2017 8:59 PM

What’s happening to the monumental murals at the AT&T building?

November 3, 2017


An already controversial plan by Saudi-backed developers Olayan America to renovate 550 Madison Avenue into a modern office building has hit another snag. Following on the heels of Snøhetta’s proposal to update the base of Philip Johnson’s postmodern skyscraper with a rolling glass facade, new questions have arisen over a pair of murals in the second floor lobby.

Famed abstract artist Dorothea Rockburne, who came to prominence in the 1970s with her paintings inspired by minimalism and mathematical principles, is questioning what will happen to her site-specific installations commissioned in 1993 by former Sony executives.

A pair of 30 by 30-foot murals slotted into viewing alcoves, “Northern Sky” and “Southern Sky” are contextual pieces designed specifically for what was once the Sony Building. The swooping spheres of red and yellow, overlaid with a pattern of shifting squiggles, are representative of the electromagnetic field in that part of the sky while also drawing on aspects of chaos theory.

The Chetrit Group, 550 Madison’s former owners before selling the property in 2016, had been engaged with a game of cat-and-mouse with Rockburne for years over the fate of the murals. Only after Rockburne revealed their correspondences publicly did the Chetrit Group eventually promise to keep the murals in place and pay for their upkeep. With the building changing hands, the agreement evaporated.

Prompted by the Snøhetta’s recent renderings, the issue has once again reared its head, but Rockburne seemed hopeful when asked about where the murals would ultimately end up.

Rockburne said, “Michael Schulhof [former CEO of Sony America and the original commissioner of the work] has stayed in contact with the new owners of the building. They’re aware of the importance, and have planned to take care of them.”

Rockburne is less certain about what the building’s new facade means for the interplay between the building itself and her work, and had strong feelings about the latest proposal. “I knew Phillip Johnson. I’ve had dinner with Phillip Johnson. This is like putting a glass curtain over a cathedral.”

Dac150 Nov 7, 2017 12:41 AM

Glad to see there is growing opposition - and prominent opposition at that. Some things are better left untouched and preserved.

sbarn Nov 7, 2017 12:52 AM

This tower should remain as originally designed.

jsbrook Nov 8, 2017 1:51 PM

Mixed feelings on this. That is a pretty cool base, but I wish it was applied to some other building. It may not be landmarked, but this building is pretty iconic and unique.

NYguy Nov 14, 2017 9:56 PM

Casting a Skeptical Eye on the AT&T Building Remake

By Justin Davidson
November 13, 2017


.....Snøhetta, the firm readying 550 Madison for its next incarnation, recently unveiled a plan to bring in more light and lure fresh tenants by stripping away some of the stone façade along Madison Avenue and replacing it with a curtain of scalloped glass. The wall’s undulations are intended to evoke the fluting on ancient columns, an opaque reference both to Johnson’s overscale neoclassicism and the colonnade of the original AT&T headquarters at 195 Broadway. But rather than rest on a classical base, the glass hangs 15 feet above the street, atop a podium of air. The proposal has incurred the fury of several critics and preservationists. Some would like to see the tower landmarked, the 1992 refurbishment reversed, and the opera-set-like arcade restored to its authentic gloom. Snøhetta’s co-founder Craig Dykers says that he and his team have registered those criticisms and are working on ways to address them, but preserving AT&T as a museum piece would never work. “Not addressing the fundamental challenges would be a disservice to an important building,” he says. “If we were doctors and we saw some symptoms, we wouldn’t just give the patient a happy pill.”

At first blush, Snøhetta would seem to be the right firm for the job. Its Oslo opera house, perched between the city and the fjord like a penguin about to dive in, combines bold drama with populist warmth. The redesign of Times Square is a master class in how to be restrained in the face of glitz. (I admire its San Francisco Museum of Modern Art expansion and even contributed an essay to a book about it.)

So far, though, Dykers’s strategy for injecting amiability into 550 Madison is a mixture of fine and potentially tragic. He leaves the crown and torso pretty much alone, concentrating architectural firepower on the base. The new version’s most inspired gambit is to get rid of a low-rise annex and the glass half-vault at the back, turning a rarely used public atrium into a landscaped, tree-filled park similar in size to MoMA’s sculpture garden. That idea begins to deal with the original’s greatest strength and deepest flaw: its overweening brawn. Johnson pushed the Madison Avenue wall a few feet closer to the curb than its neighbors, stealing a strip of sidewalk. Columns hit the ground on giants’ paws. Behind them is public space, a great granite hall fit for kings, not for office workers looking for a place to have lunch.


.....When I asked Dykers how he felt about AT&T, he replied with deeply mixed feelings. In an email he wrote that he has always “respected” it but finds it lacking in “humane sensitivity.” The base, especially, troubled him. “On my first visit in 1985 I immediately found the entrance halls and arcades foreboding,” he wrote. “I remember feeling that I was trespassing. It was empty even though newly opened. I immediately recognized that it was designed to be famous but not necessarily empathetic.” In subsequent conversations he reiterated that though he appreciates the work’s importance, it seems to him more of a showcase of postmodern theory than a habitat for people. It was likely also an expression of AT&T’s reluctance to have nonemployees hanging around its offices.

Having worked there for six months during the Sony years, I, too, found that the grandiloquence quickly gets old. I never once lingered longer than I had to in the public space. Dykers believes that his highest priority is to reinvigorate experience of the lower band, where pedestrians dwell and their eyes rove, and where people and architecture can form their most intense bond. But his first solution is to rip stone from steel, leaving the columns’ slender bones and covering them with a thin layer of smooth concrete. That would leave the tower’s base free of the ornery personality with which Johnson endowed it.

Dykers says the details are still in flux, and I look forward to the next iteration. He believes that respect and professionalism matter more than uncritical affection, and he has a point, but I still wonder whether he can really reconcile his goals with his aesthetic discomfort. One clue to that conflict lies in the three oversize portholes along each side, which once brought light into the colonnade and have since been blocked up by vents. Snøhetta would open them up again — an excellent idea — but also replace the circular frame of Renaissance-ish stones with a thin modernist metal band. It’s a small change, but a meaningful one, an assertion of one architect’s power to overrule another.

NYguy Nov 28, 2017 3:56 PM

Philip Johnson’s postmodern Midtown skyscraper could become a NYC landmark
The Landmarks Preservation Commission is taking steps to protect the circa-1984 building

NOV 28, 2017


It’s barely been a month since architecture firm Snøhetta unveiled a contemporary redesign for 550 Madison Avenue, and preservationists have already seen a win in their quest to protect Philip Johnson’s proudly postmodern skyscraper. The Landmarks Preservation Commission will decide this week whether or not to calendar the skyscraper, which is the first step in the process of naming the building a New York City landmark.

The move by the LPC comes in response to Snøhetta’s planned revamp, which would double the amount of public space within the building, along with transforming its stone base with an undulating glass curtain wall.

Many in the architecture community decried the move, noting that the changes would irreparably alter a “defining work of postmodernism,” as Dallas Morning News critic Mark Lamster put it. (Curbed’s own architecture critic, Alexandra Lange, called the proposed redesign “trinkety” with an “Apple Store-wannabe facade.”)

A campaign to landmark the building began soon after, with no less a noted architecture figure than Robert A.M. Stern showing up to protest the changes. And it looks like the LPC is listening: In its brief for tomorrow’s hearing, it calls Johnson’s building “an icon of Postmodern corporate design and one of most recognizable buildings in the Manhattan skyline.”

The LPC has been notoriously slow to act on preserving postmodern architecture; it was just this year, after all, that the LPC voted to protect the lobby and the Ambassador Grill within the United Nations Plaza Hotel (now known as the One UN New York Hotel). A yearlong campaign, led by architecture buffs, helped save those disco-fied rooms (designed by Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo & Associates) from certain death.

Johnson’s skyscraper, which became eligible for LPC designation in 2014, will hopefully go the same route. But one thing to note: the LPC seems to be considering just the exterior of the building for landmark status, not its interiors.

“[550 Madison] absolutely deserves to be a landmark and makes a perfect follow-up to the late modern Citicorp Building, whose landmarking we celebrated one year ago,” Lange said in an email. “Famous architect, skyscraper, Manhattan, instantly recognizable … the only reason it wouldn’t get calendared is opposition from the owners, which the landmarking process should weigh against history and the public good.”


UPDATE 11/28/17: on Tuesday morning, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) moved swiftly to calendar an application to landmark the exteriors of 550 Madison Avenue. This marks the first step in the landmarks process. In the coming months, the LPC will hold a public hearing on the building, and then subsequently deliberate on landmarking Philip Johnson’s postmodern tower.


Update: In a statement provided to Curbed, David Laurie, the managing director of Chelsfield America (one of the firms attached to the redevelopment, along with owner Olayan America), expressed support for the LPC’s decision. The statement continues below:

We have received both praise and critical commentary on the design and we are committed to developing a thoughtful approach. We recognize that the building has broad appeal and is at various levels an important part of architectural heritage, so we value a constructive dialogue as we develop the plans further.

550 Madison plays an important role in reaching the goals of the Midtown East rezoning. To achieve that, the building needs upgrades that will enable us to bring more than 3,000 jobs to the area, generate economic activity, and dramatically improve the adjacent public space. We want to breathe new life into the property that has been vacant for the past two years.

We are committed to creating a rejuvenated 550 Madison that retains its important presence, works for future tenants, and realizes long-promised public amenities to the larger Midtown community. And we look forward to further collaborating with the LPC to make that happen.

mrnyc Nov 28, 2017 5:06 PM

the reno definately does make the bldg look a lot brighter and better than the original, which i never liked.

i just hope they can save the artwork somehow.

i remember there was a lot of blah blah blah about this bldg when it was built, for nothing i thought at the time.

sorry ghost of philip, homeboy, but if anything your building is iconic of the architectural nadir of that era.

you turned your back to the street buddy, and i turn my back to you.

tdawg Nov 28, 2017 5:21 PM

This has always been peak Johnson PoMo in my opinion (along with One Atlantic Center in Atlanta). I still love this building.

NYguy Dec 2, 2017 5:32 PM

The latest sour-grapes low in abusing the city landmarking laws

By Steve Cuozzo
December 1, 2017


It took the city five years to rescue rotting East Midtown by rezoning it for 21st century office use. And it took architectural nitpickers barely a month to turn back the clock — trying to block plans to modernize the lower portion of 550 Madison Ave., the former Sony Building.

The charge against the project is led by architect Robert A.M. Stern, who wants the building landmarked. He calls the Philip Johnson and John Burgee-designed structure with a “Chippendale” top “an icon of Postmodern corporate design.”

In fact, architectural critics are as split on 550 Madison’s importance as the public is to its “beauty.” Not only that, the “icon’s” lower levels are not the 1980s “Postmodern” original. Sony in the 1990s replaced the original open-air sidewalk arcade with granite storefronts and enclosed the open atrium between East 55th and 56th streets.

The landmarks law is meant to protect and preserve buildings of clear-cut architectural and/or historical value. It wasn’t meant as a tool to thwart a redesign that one particular individual or group doesn’t like. Yet that’s what’s at risk of happening at 550 Madison.

It isn’t about zoning — the changes the owners want to make would have been allowed under the old rules. But denying them the right to redesign 550 Madison’s lower floors is diametrically contrary to the spirit of the new zoning — which, by allowing large new buildings to go up, is intended to stanch the exodus of great companies from East Midtown to the West Side and Downtown.

The imposing, pink-granite tower between East 55th and 56th streets doesn’t need replacing — far from it. But it’s been empty since Sony moved out two years ago, and it has little chance of drawing tenants without some serious improvements.

Owners Olayan America and Chelsfield America, who bought the structure last year for $1.4 billion, plan to spend $300 million more to make it into a state-of-the-art office and retail address. Key to the plan by architectural firm Snøhetta is to replace the gloomy granite sidewalk facade with transparent glass — which would make it attractive to stores and humanize the tower’s awkwardly configured public spaces.

The alterations, on the lowest floors only, wouldn’t affect the rest of the 41-story tower’s facade. They now require no city approvals, but landmark designation would force the owners into a protracted struggle over what they could or couldn’t do.

What’s behind the push to preserve in aspic some 1990s revisions? Stern just might hold a grudge. He was tapped by 550 Madison’s previous owners to design luxury condos there, but he’s out of the picture since the new owners scrubbed them for offices.

No one knows how much money his firm might have made, but its fee for shaping 113 apartments including a $150 million triplex penthouse wouldn’t have been chump change.

It’s rich, too, that Stern, former dean of the Yale School of Architecture, exhibits such passion to preserve a single facade that isn’t universally loved. All of his own recent Manhattan facades look basically alike — cookie-cutter limestone at condo towers 15 Central Park West, 30 Murray St. and 220 Central Park South.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission disappointingly seems willing to entertain Stern & Co.: It has “calendared” an application to designate 550 Madison, which means it’ll hold public hearings on the matter in the next few months.

The owners of 550 Madison said they’re open to “collaborating” with the LPC to “breathe new life into the property” and bring 3,000 new jobs to the area. Let’s hope the panel, which has shown mostly good judgment under chairwoman Meenakshi Srinivasan, recognizes that those needs take priority over immortalizing a few 20-year-old storefronts.

NYguy Jan 9, 2018 7:04 PM

Lobby of Philip Johnson’s 550 Madison Avenue is being dismantled
Preservationists had hoped to secure interior landmark status for the lobby

By Zoe Rosenberg
Jan 9, 2018


Demolition has started on the lobby of 550 Madison Avenue, the Philip Johnson-designed office building that’s heralded as the most iconic postmodern structure in New York City. The lobby remodel is part of building owners’ Olayan America and Chesfield America’s plan to modernize the former Sony and AT&T headquarters with an overhaul by architecture firm Snøhetta.

The remodel was announced in late October and instantly provoked a campaign by preservationists who sought to secure landmark status for the building’s monumental stone facade and lobby. The Landmarks Preservation Commission calendared the building’s exterior for designation, but decided its lobby was not worth preserving in its current state, citing a 1993 Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman renovation that significantly altered it from its original design.

The Architect’s Newspaper, who first reported the interior demolition, says that scaffolding is in place in the lobby and its windows are now papered over. Thomas Collins, the architecture buff who initially submitted the Request for Evaluation for landmark status with LPC in late October, spotted the sure signs of construction.

“It’s not clear why they’re rushing forward at this stage,” Collins told AN. “I believe they are primarily gutting the lobby for aesthetic and marketing purposes.”

“The LPC made this decision behind closed doors—they knew they were going to rip out the interior,” Liz Waytkus, executive director of Docomomo US, said to AN. “I feel like it’s a bait-and-switch.”

However, building co-owner Chelsfield America has expressed its support for the LPC’s decision to consider 550 Madison Avenue for exterior landmark status. “We have received both praise and critical commentary on the design and we are committed to developing a thoughtful approach,” David Laurie, the managing director of Chelsfield America , said in a statement issued to Curbed in late November. “We recognize that the building has broad appeal and is at various levels an important part of architectural heritage, so we value a constructive dialogue as we develop the plans further.”

NYguy Dec 5, 2018 2:31 AM

After last year’s blowback, Snøhetta takes another stab at 550 Madison
In an interview, Olayan executive says project is "off schedule"

By Erin Hudson
December 04, 2018


A year after Snøhetta’s first attempt at renovating Olayan America and Chelsfield’s office tower at 550 Madison Avenue ended in controversy and eventual landmarking,
the architects are hoping their second attempt will be smoother.

The firm’s initial plan would have replaced the original facade of rose granite with a glass curtain-wall and garnered fierce backlash from architects, preservationists and
architecture buffs after its release in October 2017. The new proposal unveiled Tuesday features three stories of retail at the ground level and a new opening in the rear
facade to allow sight lines from Madison Avenue into a new open-air garden that will replace the currently enclosed galleria.

Snøhetta senior architect Nick Anderson said the firm “stood behind” their original design but said they learned from the criticism.

“We certainly were surprised by some of the passion of the people who came out. That said I feel like that helped us understand a little bit more about how much people care
about this building and why they care about it and what parts they care about,” he said. The landmark designation applies to the exterior of the building only — a sore point
for preservationists who had campaigned for interior landmarking of the building’s famed lobby before its demolition last January.

pico44 Dec 5, 2018 5:26 AM

Now was that so hard You philistine Snohetta punks?

NYguy Dec 5, 2018 6:01 PM

I think it's nice. I didn't mind the other version though.


NYguy Feb 12, 2019 9:22 PM

LPC approves Snøhetta’s new design for 550 Madison Avenue
Architects will revitalize the building’s foreboding POPS with an airy glass canopy

By Caroline Spivack
Feb 12, 2019


The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission paved the way for Snøhetta to partially redesign Philip Johnson’s Postmodern skyscraper at 550 Madison Avenue Tuesday with a vote backing the contested plan.

After more than an hour of discussion, the commission unanimously voted to approve the proposed changes with a handful of minor modifications to ensure the building’s materials remain uniform and to keep the alterations in line with the structure’s overall character.

“The proposal mitigates and, maybe incrementally, gets back to the spirit of the original intent in that it brightens up the store front, it sets them back, instead of sort of a bleak view on Madison Avenue it gives you a sense of more open quality,” said Sarah Carroll, the chair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. “And given where we are today, I think that [the proposal’s] steps are the appropriate steps.”


The biggest change to the property, which was granted landmark status in July 2018, is the privately-owned public space (POPS) at the ground level. Nick Anderson, a senior architect at Snøhetta who is working on the redevelopment, described the space as “tall, skinny, and dark” but Snøhetta’s new plan would completely overhaul the space with an airy glass canopy and seating for more than 260 people.

“It has always been sort of a dark and bizarre space for me and so I feel this new space enhances that wonderful building that I love,” Commissioner Michael Devonshire, who is the director of conservation at Jan Hird Pokorny Associates, Inc. “It is delicate enough that it actually enhances the Phillip Johnson construct for me.”

To create that new space, builders will remove some of the existing retail and dismantle an annex that was added when Sony bought the building in the 1990s. When all is said the done the space will boast 21,300 square feet, 42 new trees, eight bike racks, and seven public restrooms, according to the building’s owner The Olayan Group.

The plan also calls for revamping the interior—which is outside of the LPC’s purview. Additionally, the building’s entire mechanical systems including HVAC and elevators will be replaced with eco-friendly upgrades in efforts of achieving LEED platinum, Wired, and WELL certifications—prestigious sustainability standards. Overall, the building will go from accommodating fewer than 1,000 employees to, eventually, housing some 3,000 workers.

Now that the proposal has earned the LPC’s approval, exterior work on the Madison Avenue building can more forward. The office tower is on track to reopen in 2020, according to The Olayan Group.

“With modern interiors, a world-class public open space, and preserved façade, the building will once again attract top companies to East Midtown,” The Olayan Group said in a statement.

jsbrook Feb 13, 2019 1:37 AM

I like it a lot. Much better than the first attempt.

NYguy Feb 13, 2019 3:29 AM

I think it's a win for the area.

chris08876 Oct 23, 2019 2:52 AM

Renderings revealed for 550 Madison’s renovated lobby: The office tower’s $300M repositioning is expected to wrap up next year


Olayan Group and its partners can see the finish line for 550 Madison Avenue’s major rehab.

The local arm of the Saudi Arabian conglomerate has released renderings showing the new lobby, designed by Gensler. The central feature of the new entrance is a large rear window that frames a garden in the rear of the building.

The lobby is about halfway done and the project is on track to wrap up by next year, according to a release. The building’s exterior was landmarked in August 2018, and the latest design proposal for the tower’s exterior was approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in February.

“We cannot wait to introduce Olayan’s brand of luxury hospitality for commercial tenants to New York next year,” said Erik Horvat, managing director of real estate at Olayan. CBRE is handling leasing.

Olayan bought the building, designed by renowned architect Philip Johnson and John Burgee, for $1.4 billion in 2016 from Chetrit Group and David Bistricer’s Clipper Equity. At the time, the former headquarters for AT&T, and later Sony Corporation of America, had been vacated to make way for a condo conversion.

Olayan partnered with U.K.-based developer and asset manager Chelsfield and later RXR Realty to execute a $300 million makeover of the tower into a multi-tenant office building, though the project was complicated by a contentious landmarking process.

JMKeynes Oct 23, 2019 3:37 AM

I love the garden. The fountain is beautiful and huge.

chris08876 Oct 23, 2019 4:15 AM


I wonder who make the decisions on the people that go in these renderings. Like that lady with the coffee giggling, and that lady to her left looking at her in a very Real Housewives of NJ manner. My NJ instincts tell me that a quarrel might arise!

JMKeynes Oct 23, 2019 2:18 PM


Originally Posted by chris08876 (Post 8726395)

I wonder who make the decisions on the people that go in these renderings. Like that lady with the coffee giggling, and that lady to her left looking at her in a very Real Housewives of NJ manner. My NJ instincts tell me that a quarrel might arise!

The chick on the left has an amazing rack. :cheers::cheers:

Boerumer Oct 23, 2019 10:06 PM

Oh good, they decided not to full on assault the place, just knock it around a bit.

dropdeaded209 Oct 24, 2019 8:30 AM

ripping out the lobby and replacing it with a "gilded hospital waiting room chic" aesthetic counts as an assault. nice to know the NYC design community is largely fine with garbage, tho.

Submariner Oct 24, 2019 3:13 PM


Originally Posted by JMKeynes (Post 8726602)
The chick on the left has an amazing rack. :cheers::cheers:

Are you getting a One Vanderbilt?

Submariner Oct 24, 2019 3:14 PM

Turned out alright, actually. The tall, large windows should add quite a bit of light to that part of town.

JMKeynes Oct 24, 2019 3:21 PM


Originally Posted by Submariner (Post 8727951)
Are you getting a One Vanderbilt?


chris08876 Dec 21, 2019 3:18 PM

The Olayan Group Reveals Snøhetta-Designed Public Spaces At 550 Madison Avenue In Midtown East


Snøhetta has revealed renderings of its design for the public spaces surrounding 550 Madison Avenue in Midtown East, Manhattan. The new garden will increase the plaza’s scope to more than 21,000 square feet with the addition of a café, planters, seating, and public bathrooms. The iconic Philip Johnson-designed commercial tower is currently undergoing a major renovation designed by Gensler for a consortium of developers including The Olayan Group, RXR Realty, and Chelsfield.

The space is partially enclosed by an elegant slanted roof comprised mostly of glass to promote the flow of natural light into the garden.

“We’re thrilled to be a part of re-envisioning the future of this historic site, by imagining a precedent for New York’s changing demands on privately owned public spaces,” said Michelle Delk, partner and director of landscape architecture at Snøhetta. “A contrast to the urbanity of midtown, this new garden complements the adjacent tower while drawing upon the vibrancy of the neighborhood and the natural history of the region, offering visitors an immersive respite in the city.”

Much of the space will have a diverse assortment of plants including annuals, perennials, and evergreens that thrive in the Northeastern climate. Approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission earlier this year, the open space is currently under its final review with the Department of City Planning.

chris08876 Jan 13, 2020 2:10 PM

The public garden was approved by the planning commission.

Design-mind Jan 18, 2020 10:57 PM

The public Garden...

JMKeynes Jan 19, 2020 2:18 AM

This is going to be amazing. NY has the best pocket parks.

I hope that 270 Parks’ new garden/public plaza is as nice as this.

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