A new public garden opens at 550 Madison

550 Madison

Recently, the Olayan Group held a ceremony with elected officials, city leaders and the design team to open a new, half-acre public garden at 550 Madison Avenue between 55th and 56th streets in Manhattan.

Designed by international landscape and architecture firm Snøhetta, the garden is located adjacent to 550 Madison in the location of a formerly enclosed mid-block passageway. The garden is substantially larger than other local public spaces and welcomes area workers, residents and visitors with abundant seating, 48 trees, 200 shrubs, 6,300 bulb plants, 10,000 herbaceous understory plants, gender-inclusive public restrooms and three kiosks with food and beverage offerings.

550 Madison

The garden is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week, year-round. The tower’s roof captures 93,000 gallons of rainwater annually to sustainably irrigate the entire garden.

Built around a tranquil water feature and five sections centered on different focal structures, the 21,300-square foot garden is nearly twice the size of a previous public space in the same location. The garden’s bloom calendar is carefully timed for plant species to offer a wide range of colorful hues, from pink to purple, blue and yellow, at different blooming dates from February to October each year.

550 Madison

“Snøhetta’s design for the new garden transforms the streets surrounding the iconic 550 Madison building into accessible, lavishly vegetated, and highly visible public space. A new lobby window and redesigned storefronts honor Philip Johnson’s original design. We are honored to help return this important part of Midtown to its visitors while contributing to the celebrated vibrancy of New York City,”

Michelle Delk, Partner and Landscape Architect, Snøhetta.

Distinct, “upland,” “lowland” and “sheltered” garden sections feature tree-filled backdrops and shrub skirts, drawing inspiration from Northeastern mountain vegetation ranging from fine-textured and airy to thick luxuriant foliage.

Mountain Rosebay, Smooth Hydrangea and Bottlebrush Buckeye fill the garden’s shrub skirt, with a tree assortment including Yellowwood, Sweetbay Magnolia and River Birch. Planters host a diversity of regional native species, from Soloman’s Seal, Goatsbeard and Black Cohosh to Coral Bell and Sword Fern.

550 Madison

The Olayan Group recently signed up three diverse local food and beverage brands for the garden’s three retail kiosks to create a superior experience for visitors – all begin operation on November 17.

Working alongside Snohetta on the garden was a team of leading landscape and horticulture companies, including Phyto, The Dirt Company, SiteWorks, Arup and Adamson Associates Architects.

550 Madison Public Garden

Landscape Architecture: Snøhetta

Renovation Architect: Snøhetta

Client: The Olayan Group

Interior Design of Club Level, Fitness and Wellness Center: The Rockwell Group,

Lobby Design: Gensler

Leasing Agent: CBRE

Development Advisor: RXR

Photography: Barrett Doherty

About Damian Holmes 3292 Articles
Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/damianholmes/