250 West 55th

new york, ny

client: w hotel and residences

The terrace landscape at 250 West 55th Street occupies the third floor of a new corporate office tower designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Its design considered not only how the space might be occupied, but also how it might become a visual amenity for the higher floors of the tower and its urban context. The design has attained LEED Gold certification by making provisions for stormwater management, reductions in the urban heat island effect, and the use of recycled materials.

The design embraces SOM’s minimalist design of the tower, juxtaposing natural plant material with its stark materiality of glass and steel. A deck is placed amidst a monolithic sculpted meadow of low grasses and birch trees, an unaltered piece of nature with the dynamic movement of grasses dancing in the wind. When viewed from inside the space, the deck appears as an island embraced by nature, the grasses adding a tactile quality to the user’s experience. As seen from the street, an airy canopy of birch trees provides a natural foil to the reflective quality of the façade.

The design is a strong, simple gesture that allows the terrace to create a sense of escape from daily office activity, whether one looks into the meadow from above or experiences the meadow from within. The contrast of materiality between the landform and the building’s façade creates a solution that is powerful yet understated, minimal yet dynamic, whimsical yet elegant and to be enjoyed for years to come.