Snøhetta renovates Philip Johnson's AT&T building

The Oslo-based architecture firm recently revisited the postmodern masterpiece through silent interventions and the opening of the spaces at the base of the tower to the public.

Architectural firm Snøhetta has recently renovated the well-known postmodern skyscraper 550 Madison in New York, formerly known as the AT&T building and designed by Philip Johnson and John Burgee – nicknamed “Chippendale” when it opened in 1984 because of the gable reminding one of the furniture of the British manufacturer of the same name. Originally built for the American telecommunications company AT&T, the skyscraper was later occupied by Sony and then remained vacant for a few years before being purchased by the global investment company The Olayan Group.

With a “surgical” and silent spatial approach, the firm opened up some facades, added a public garden, and improved ventilation and elevation systems as part of the conversion of the 197-metre-high Manhattan skyscraper 550 Madison from a single-company tower to a multi-occupant office. The realised renovation aimed to respect the new status by reducing interventions on the façade. Only a small part of the original stone was removed to create a window block for the new service level and was reused to repair stone in other areas. Snøhetta also collaborated with the American architectural firm Gensler to renovate the atrium, while the New York design firm Rockwell Group did the interior design for the service level.

Snøhetta, 550 Madison, New York, USA. Courtesy Snøhetta

In rethinking the areas accessible to the public, the firm aimed to open up the spaces at the base of the tower to make them more accessible. “Our design for the new garden transforms the streets surrounding the iconic 550 Madison building into an accessible, richly vegetated and highly visible public space,” said Michelle Delk, Snøhetta partner and head of landscape architecture.

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