31 in 31: #2

This is a series for August 2010 which documents my on-the-ground research for my guidebook to contemporary NYC architecture (to be released next year by W. W. Norton). Archives can be found at the bottom of the post and via the 31 in 31 label.

One Bryant Park

The Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park by Cook + Fox receives a fair amount of attention for its tapering form and sustainability features. But an area that does not receive as much attention is where the building meets the ground, the zone where pedestrians interact with the building. A few places stand out in particular. First is the subway entrance enclosure (above) which sits below the tower's canopy and is rendered in the same patterned glass as the tower above. With entry to the building set back below the canopy, the subway's glass box defines the corner at sidewalk level.

One Bryant Park

To the right of the photo at top is the second area, the "Urban Garden Room" (above), which anchors the tower's northeast corner. The enclosed space is inhabited by a permanent "Living Sculpture" installation by Wallace Roberts & Todd and Margie Ruddick with four pieces ranging in height from 7' to a 25-foot archway. It is meant to "make you feel like you have stepped into the natural world of the city," but it comes across more like a corral. The public is welcome to hang out at One Bryant Park, they just have to do it in that corner with the lichen- and moss-covered hedges.

One Bryant Park

Third and last is the through-block connection between 42nd and 43rd Streets to the west of the tower's footprint. Portals lined with terracotta panels pull people through the space, but the material gives the impression that it is part of a different building. This space is the antithesis of the Urban Garden Room; where the room invites repose this linear space is all about movement. Security personnel were quick to swarm over me when I got out my camera; that combined with the design -- well executed with nice materials but still oppressive, like a high-end loading dock -- it is hardly an inviting space. A sinuous bench (at right in photo above) says "sit on me" (don't stand, I tried, to the ire of the said security force), but the rest says "keep on moving."

#1 - Phyto Universe


  1. We eat in that garden room all the time! It's perfect for those super humid days when you still need to get out of the office. Thanks for giving a little more info about the space.

  2. The middle photo in particular reminds me of scenes from Jaques Tati's film Play Time, perfect, glazed, modernism.


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