by Wendy Giman, 12/18/2013
Photo: Will Steacy
Ford Foundation Atrium
320 E. 43rd St., Midtown East, Manhattan
Built in 1967 when architects of office buildings were just starting to consider public spaces, the Ford Foundation Atrium remains a model for most, which is fitting for a private foundation focused on social change. With a tropical garden planted in a 12-story glass atrium, the building offers a chance to recharge after shopping or before catching the train at nearby Grand Central Terminal. The garden's multitiered space leads down to a meditative pond with an arboricola tree in the center, creating a sensory experience of a greenhouse in the big city. It took awhile to perfect, however; the landmarked building originally used temperate plants including magnolia and redwood trees that perished in the warm interior (think: sun and glass). Today a variety of subtropical plants thrive, while the building's workers benefit from having a generous amount of natural light (and nature) in their offices. The atrium is free and open to the public during business hours.