I don’t know about you, but I would not think of an office building as a recreational destination. It’s a special office building indeed that makes you say “Wow!” not only for its expansive, light-filled architecture but also for its indoor garden and the ways it subverts the corporate structure through its design. This week’s destination, the Ford Foundation building in Manhattan, does all of the above.
Once you step inside the glass, steel and granite exterior, the first thing you notice is a 160-foot tall atrium. The glass offices within are oriented towards this expansive atrium, providing an indoor park for the 12 stories of glass offices facing it and for passers by wandering in. The prismatic glass skylight keeps the atrium light.
The project was a combined effort between architects Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo and landscape architect Dan Kiley. The ground level landscaping actually occupies a 13-foot grade change. This means it is a tiered garden with steps leading to a pool. Planters lining the interior glass at several of the higher levels allows the plant life to ascend along with the building as you look up towards the high skylights.
The transparency and indoor-outdoor connection is all the best of Midcentury Modern style, and the building’s design also has an equalizing effect. Since windows do not have to face only out to the street and Tudor City Park outside, but also the lush atrium within, it means you don’t need a corner office to enjoy a view and light-filled workspace. The fishbowl effect also builds in transparency—you can see into the conference room and offices, spaces that are usually walled off.
The building is now a New York City Landmark. It’s a great place to take refuge from the winter cold and gawk at pristine architecture and green subtropical plants.
Jolene Nolte is the Managing Editor of Atomic Ranch. She loves exploring places with both natural and architectural beauty and learning about cultural history. She always chose the 60s for Decade Day at school, grew to appreciate Modernist poetry in college and finds herself bumping up into World War II-era history quite a bit lately. She enjoys finding overlapping influences and the intersections of all the above in Midcentury Modern architecture and design.