550 Madison Avenue: Community Board Five support for landmark designation of the building exterior, as well as portions of the interior lobby and public arcade space.
WHEREAS, 550 Madison Avenue, aka the AT&T Building, aka Sony Tower, opened in 1984 between East 55th and East 56th Streets, and was designed by Philip Johnson and John Burgee; and
WHEREAS, 550 Madison is an unbroken 37-floor office tower sheathed in pink granite, sitting on 60-foot columns with a dramatic 116-foot archway entrance, oculi windows, and an iconic "Chippendale" crown that was built as the new headquarters for American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T); and
WHEREAS, The original design of the building yielded a relatively small lobby base to the building surrounded by extensive public space in the form of arcades within the 60-foot columns of the building, as well as a large rear plaza; and
WHEREAS, When Sony occupied the building multiple changes were made, including enclosing the open public arcades to the north and south of the main entrance with aluminum window bays for retail outlets, and enclosing portions of the side-arcades for extended lobby and mechanical spaces, and enclosing the rear public plaza with a glass atrium; but these have been changes that have left all remaining public spaces around the building dark, uninviting, and underutilized; and
WHEREAS, 550 Madison Avenue is the first example of a corporate headquarters skyscraper to showcase the Postmodern design which spurred a global explosion of office tower construction in this fashion, and is considered by many to still be the most recognizable and most famous example of Postmodern architecture due to its sheer size and high-profile location in the Manhattan skyline; and
WHEREAS, The unsympathetic changes to the structure have not permanently altered the original and intended design elements of the building and they can be restored; and
WHEREAS, The annex building to the immediate west was originally built as a communications museum and is now vacant, and shows no significant architectural merit to 550 Madison Avenue; and
WHEREAS, The interior of the lobby, which was a Postmodern masterpiece by Johnson and Burgee and is considered to be an extension of the exterior design, has already undergone partial demolition but may still possess significant architectural details and should be reviewed immediately for potential interior landmark status; and
WHEREAS, The owners of 550 Madison Avenue are in favor of an exterior landmark designation, as are various other preservation groups; therefore be it
RESOLVED, Community Board Five recommends approval for recommendation of an exterior landmark status for the very significant and iconic postmodern design of 550 Madison Avenue, a designation which should include the once-public arcade spaces seized by Sony for private use; and be it further
RESOLVED, Community Board Five strongly urges LPC to consider an immediate review of remaining lobby details for potential interior landmark designation and thus allowing for public review.