In the latest twist and turn in the saga of Philip Johnson’s notorious AT&T Building, the team from Norwegian design firm Snøhetta has released their plans to overhaul the base of the tower with a massive undulating glass façade that will override the monumental postmodern composition of the tower.
The 1980s tower, located at 550 Madison Avenue, is the first major project to be announced as part of the New York City’s East Midtown rezoning plan. The work will focus on the public spaces at the street level, including a larger garden that will connect Madison Avenue and 55th Street as well as open up the brick façade and the retail and office spaces behind it.
The Sony Corporation had owned the building since 2002 but left almost 2 years ago. It was bought in 2013 by the Chetrit Group and Clipper Realty, who had planned to turn it into luxury condos designed by Robert A.M. Stern. The plan was scrapped, however, when the firm started to second-guess the high-end residential market. Saudi Arabian investment group Olayan America bought the building for $1.4 billion and along with development partner Chelsfield America plans to turn it into offices.
Snøhetta aims to “highlight the multi-story arched entry while revealing the craftsmanship of the building’s existing steel structure.” The first two levels will be publicly accessible.
The garden will feature seasonal plantings that will be transformed over the course of the year and the owners hope that birds and butterflies will flourish in the new urban greenscape.
Founded in 1947, Olayan America has its main offices in Athens, London, Riyadh and New York, where it is based and where it has had a continuous presence for more than 45 years.
Read our followup here to see how architecture critics and others in the architecture community are weighing in on the proposed design.