Looking for a tropical getaway from the city? The warm-weather escape you've been seeking might be right under your nose in the atrium of a Midtown office building. Designed by Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo Associates, the Ford Foundation building was completed in 1967 to serve as the headquarters for one of the nation's largest private foundations. At the time, the structure was seen as a radical departure from earlier paradigms.
The Ford Foundation building is a bit of a fortress-like structure that stands out amongst the neo-gothic-infused neighborhood of the Tudor City complex. Framed in exposed Cor-Ten steel and mahogany-colored granite, the building contains an innovative, elegant, and transparent 12-story glass atrium. The indoor garden was designed by Dan Kiley, and is visible from the offices and the street. It is a terraced layout, with three different tiers of lush, dense planting. This negotiates the 13-foot grade change from the building’s entrances on 42nd street and 43rd street. In the interior of the garden, more terraces, granite steps, paths and planting beds delineate the space.
The garden’s serene aura is aided by the fragrance of gardenias, and the sound of running water. Tucked away in the lower terrace, the water fountain acts as a wishing well. The coins collected are sent across the street to UNICEF. Glancing upwards, the greenery continues. Ferns and vines hang from girders, and small trees are visible from the top levels. The building’s roof captures rainwater and stores it in an underground cistern. Amazingly, watering this garden doesn’t deplete the city resources.
This project was named a New York City Landmark in 1997. Truly a “Secret Garden,” the Ford Foundation is a modernist gem and a great example of green architecture.
Photos ©Yukari Yamahiro for Inhabitat. Check out more on our Flickr Stream