(2003 Postscript: this space still has not achieved its potential, since the space intended for a large indoor cafe has never found a tenant; but the climbing wall and an occasionally-open small cafe provides great benefits compared to this atrium's former forlorn existence.) (2013 Postscript: the lease of the climbing wall operator ended and the space has become largely empty. It has been taken over by Lincoln Center (which is across the street). They have proceeded to rip out the architecture seen here and prepare the space for use that will be populated by the musical/performance venues of Lincoln Center. Hopefully that dedicated use will better make use of this space.)
Start with a ‘broken’ public space. A space populated not by the ordinary citizens of the city, sipping juices and cappuccinos in an enclosed urban plaza enjoying a slice of the luxurious Lincoln Center area -- but by homeless. The owners and managers of the Condominium that maintained this quasi-public property wished to remove the blight to the eye and nose that this derelict plaza invited.
Our firm proposed creating a public space along the lines of many successful Italian atria in Milan, Bologna, Rome — open up this stuffy, boxy atrium to the weather and to people. Instead of blank glass walls that hid the atrium from all but the most curious, we ‘blew out’ the enclosing walls, and created a truly through-block atrium — from Broadway to Columbus to 62nd Street. (Since weather in New York is not quite as benign as on the Italian peninsula, there are special, giant doors that close the space in the winter months.)
To enliven and give a destination to the space, the building managers brought in a climbing wall operator with their climbing wall designer to take advantage of the high, blank, metallic walls, which until now had been a detriment.
Once we removed the exterior glass walls, we selectively redesigned the interiors of the space with geometric, three dimensional wall surfaces on a grand scale to complement and play against the organic, wacky wall surfaces used for recreational climbing.
We represented our client at an extended series of meetings with the New York City Planning Commission. This agency has jurisdiction over all such plazas, and we, along with an urban planning law specialist, successfully convinced them that this solution would have a great likelihood to, for the first time, make the Atrium accessible and attractive to all New Yorkers.
- Project Category: Public Space,
- Location: New York, NY, Lincoln Center area
- Materials: Three-dimensional stucco panels, skylights, tile, special climbing wall
- Size: 5000 sf