After Snøhetta and the Olayan Group revealed plans to revamp Philip Johnson's Postmodern icon at 550 Madison Avenue in New York City last fall, a backlash from preservationists and architecture enthusiasts — resulting in the Landmarks Preservation Commission giving the exterior facade legal protection — forced the design team to go back to the drawing board. In the time since, Snøhetta has returned with a much more sensitive intervention that does away with the large expanses of glass found in the initial proposal.
The updated "preservation-first" design still includes a total overhaul of the building's interiors, which are not covered in the nascent landmark designation. The lobby had already been gutted earlier this year, with no concrete plans yet as to its new vision. Mechanical systems will be replaced with eco-friendly equipment that the proponents hope will earn the building LEED platinum status.
The ground-level privately-owned public space is set for a big makeover, with a glass ceiling, a water wall, and additional seating areas replacing some of the current retail bays and an annex dating from the 1990s. The exterior's signature archways, portholes and masonry facade remain key features in the updated design. The six rectangular openings that line the front of the building will see their black glass removed in favour of a transparent system with thin mullions, aligning with Johnson's original design.
The building's occupancy would jump from 800 workers to approximately 3,000 once the renovations are complete. The 34-storey tower, built in 1984 for AT&T, has been a mainstay in the Manhattan skyline, contributing its "Chippendale" roofline and warm brickwork to the island's architectural diversity.
SkyriseCities will be sure to return to this project as progress continues. What do you think of the proposed revamp? Let us know by leaving a comment in the field below.