This morning the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to designate the AT&T building at 550 Madison Avenue as an individual landmark. Designed by Philip Johnson and completed in 1984, the world’s first postmodern skyscraper originally served as the AT&T headquarters. A decade later, Sony moved in and it became known as the Sony Tower. Recently, a growing roster of preservationists and architects have been urging the LPC to landmark the building after plans surfaced showing significant changes to its architecture.
Rendering via Snohetta / Binyan Studios; construction photo via CityRealty
With the neighboring Jewish Guild for the Blind officially demolished, construction has now begun on Extell Development’s skyscraper at 50 West 66th Street. Designed by Snøhetta, the mixed-use skyscraper is set to rise 775 feet, making it the tallest building on the Upper West Side. The 69-story tower will feature a facade of excavations, that are meant to evoke the “chiseled stone of Manhattan’s geologic legacy,” according to the architects. As CityRealty reported, the new tower will sit next to some of the borough’s most illustrious buildings, including 15 Central Park West and The Century.
During a nearly two-hour public hearing on Tuesday, passionate preservationists, architects, and community groups testified in front of the Landmarks Preservation Commission in support of designating the postmodern skyscraper at 550 Madison Avenue as an individual landmark. Best known as the AT&T Building, the 37-story tower was designed by Philip Johnson, along with his partner John Burgee, and completed in 1984.
As postmodernism’s first skyscraper, 550 Madison has stood out for its pink-gray granite facade, arched entryway and Chippendale-inspired crown. A wide range of people on Tuesday voiced support for giving 550 Madison landmark designation, including architectural critic Paul Goldberger. In his testimony, Goldberger cited his own 1978 New York Times review of the building, before it was built, when he called the AT&T Building “a major monument” of postmodernism and “the most provocative and daring skyscraper to be proposed for New York since the Chrysler Building.”
This morning the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to calendar the postmodern skyscraper at 550 Madison Avenue, designed by Philip Johnson and completed in 1984. The world’s first skyscraper built in a postmodern style was originally known as the AT&T Building, as the tower served as the company headquarters. Sony moved in in the 1990s, giving it the nickname of the Sony Tower.
Last year, the building sold to the Olayan Group and Chelsfield for a whopping $1.4 billion. Their resulting renovation plan, led by Snøhetta, has elicited protest from preservationists who do not want to see changes to the building’s impressive arched entryway. Now that the tower’s calendared, the developers’ $300 million renovation will eventually come up for a landmarks vote by the LPC.
Rendering of 50 West 66th Street courtesy of Binyan Studios/ Snøhetta
Of-the-moment firm Snøhetta has revealed their design for a 775-foot condominium tower at 50 West 66th Street, set to be the tallest on the Upper West Side (h/t Wallpaper) The Extell-developed building will feature 127 units and a series of “sculptural excavations” that the architects say are “evocative of the chiseled stone of Manhattan’s geologic legacy.” On the lower levels, the tower will be clad in textured limestone with bronze window frames; its narrower upper portion will have a glassy facade and chamfered corners that create a series of open-air loggias.
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.
Rendering of 550 Madison Avenue, via DBOX/ Snøhetta
Over the last few years, plans to refurbish the former headquarters of AT&T and Sony Building at 550 Madison Avenue have come and gone, including a proposal to convert the upper floors into luxury condos designed by Robert A.M. Stern. Now, with those plans long abandoned, Olayan America and Chelsfield revealed plans on Monday for a $300 million renovation of the tower, modernizing the lower levels of the building with high-quality amenities and a sprawling 21,000-square-foot public garden. With Snøhetta as lead architect, the renovation will be the first major project in East Midtown since its revitalization plan was approved earlier this year.
The past decade has seen an increasing effort to transform New York City’s under-utilized–and sometimes dismal–public spaces into pedestrian plazas and other vibrant and attractive public oases. From Columbus Circle and Times Square to Downtown Brooklyn’s Willoughby Street, new car-free spaces encourage passersby to linger and enjoy their surroundings.
Vornado Realty Trust (VNO), one of the city’s biggest landlords, has been working on a similar transformation of the urban sprawl that surrounds Penn Station and Madison Square Garden by implementing kiosks, seating and attractive architecture. Now, CityRealty.com has revealed new renderings from Kenneth Park Architects (KPA) showing their ideas and recommendations for repositioning retail space and optimizing pedestrian and vehicular circulation.
Back in April, we learned that Vornado Realty Trust was hoping to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into revitalizing the Penn Station area with new retail space, public plazas, and other infrastructure. Now, Crain’s reports that the developer has tapped Oslo-based starchitecture firm Snøhetta to handle the overhaul’s master plan, the same architects responsible for the 9/11 Memorial Museum Pavilion and the public plaza in Times Square.
Snøhetta will be responsible for creating a “framework” for both Vornado’s Penn Plaza buildings and the surrounding street-level spaces. And in a similar vein to the recently approved One Vanderbilt scheme at Grand Central, the master plan will include closing off part of West 33rd to vehicular traffic in the hopes of creating a permanent pedestrian plaza near Madison Square Garden.
Earlier today, we learned that Vornado Realty Trust tapped Oslo-based starchitecture firm Snøhetta to create a master plan for the redesign of the Penn Station area. Even the developer referred to Manhattan’s most-hated and most-congested location as “the collision of humanity.” But Snøhetta worked their magic creating the Times Square pedestrian plaza, so we want to know if you think they have what it takes to transform Penn Station from a commuter’s nightmare to a welcoming city streetscape.