Robert A.M. Stern joins fight against Snøhetta’s plan to renovate Philip Johnson’s AT&T Building

Posted On Mon, November 6, 2017 By

Posted On Mon, November 6, 2017 By In Design, History, Midtown East

Photo of the protest courtesy of Nathan Eddy

After Olayan America and Chelsfield revealed plans last week for a $300 million renovation of the building at 550 Madison Avenue, known as the AT&T Building, criticism quickly followed. Members of the architecture community, including New York architect Robert A.M. Stern, rallied together last Friday at the base of the Philip Johnson-designed skyscraper, to protest Snøhetta’s proposal to replace the building’s base with a scalloped glass front (h/t Dezeen). Protestors held signs that read “Hands off my Johnson,” “Save the Stone,” and “Save AT&T.” Plus, a petition is currently being circulated on Change.org in an attempt to preserve Johnson’s iconic AT&T Building by having the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission officially designate it as a city landmark.

550 Madison Avenue, Snohetta, Sony Building
Rendering of 550 Madison Avenue, via DBOX/ Snøhetta

Snøhetta’s design calls for modernizing the lower levels of the building, as well as high-quality amenities and a 21,000-square-foot public garden. According to Olayan America, the plans will keep the famous Chippendale top and will only enhance Johnson’s 1980 postmodern design. The building’s stone facade will be partially replaced at eye level with an undulating glass curtain wall, an attempt to highlight the building’s arched entryway.


Philip Johnson’s iconic crown of 550 Madison Avenue, via DBOX/550 Madison

Critics argue the building’s architectural impact should be respected. At Friday’s protest, Stern held a model of the building that replicates a 1979 Time Magazine cover of Johnson doing the same. The protest was organized by filmmaker Nathan Eddy, who is also leading the petition to give the building landmark status.

Plans to refurbish the former headquarters of AT&T and Sony have changed over the years. At one point, there was even a proposal to convert the upper floors into luxury condos designed by Stern, but plans were quickly scrapped after the building was sold.

The 647-foot tall AT&T Building was first completed by Johnson and partner John Burgee in 1984, becoming the world’s first skyscraper built in a postmodern style. Olayan America hopes the renovation of the building, which is now being called 550 Madison, will be completed by 2019.

[Via Dezeen]

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