A Gated Corporation

Earlier today I had to take my laptop in for some service at the Apple Store in Grand Central Terminal. To get there I walked down Park Avenue, stopping at 270 Park Avenue to take some pictures of the trees and bollards surrounding the corporate tower that is home to JPMorgan Chase & Co.

[270 Park Avenue, home to JPMorgan Chase & Company | Photo: John Hill]

The 52-story tower was designed by SOM's Natalie de Blois and completed in 1961, at which time its plaza was basically barren:

[SOM's Union Carbide Corporation Headquarters, 1961, Park Avenue and East 47th Street | Photo: Ezra Stoller/Esto]

SOM's page on the project indicates the firm renovated the building twice: in 1983 for Manufacturers Hanover Corporation and in the 1990s, when the firm merged with Chemical Bank. I can't tell if the plaza was renovated into its current state on either occasion, though I'm guessing from the size of the trees that it was more recent.

[Sidewalk frontage along East 47th Street | Photo: John Hill]

Some digging around in NYC's handy BIS turned up an August 2000 permit filed by Gensler for Chase Manhattan Bank for the "installation of bollards" (and related "structural reinforcements"), as well as a permit filed one month after 9/11 for the "installation of temporary bollards." Again, I can't tell if this is the work that yielded its current state, but the combination of trees and bollards has an obvious post-9/11 feeling to it.

[Detail of the Park Avenue "gateway" | Photo: John Hill]

Comparing today's photos with a Google Street View from summer 2011, all the "bones" are in place below, but one detail is missing: the gates between bollards. This is the element that really struck me as I was walking by. Bollards are a common feature ringing corporate headquarters in Manhattan, especially banks, but it's odd to see an outdoor space further fortified with gates.

[Google Street View from July 2011]


  1. Agreed on those gates. Bollards are understandable, especially around prominent banks and federal buildings. The gates, however, really change the nature of an otherwise permeable barrier. Imagine the horror if the Seagram Building was gated off.

    1. Bollards at Seagram would be blasphemy – Holly Whyte would roll over in his grave!


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