Over the last two decades, New York City’s Bryant Park has transformed from blighted Midtown plot to a grand urban greenscape. In the process, it has renewed everything around it. Gensler is part of that story. Starting in 2000, the firm began leveraging the redeveloped park as an urban campus for clients.
This foresight led to a number of projects on the park’s perimeter. Having benefitted from the revitalizing neighborhood, these clients are giving back to it as well.
Located between Fifth and Sixth Avenues; the park is a hub of business and culture, and the School of the International Center of Photography (ICP) sits on its northwest corner. At street level, the school is a discrete glass pavilion — the entry to the nearly 25,000-square-foot school and gallery being on the subterranean concourse level. Completed in 2001, the School of the ICP was Gensler’s first project on the park, and it established a cultural presence in the area.
“We wanted it to be a kind of beacon,” noted ICP Director Willis Hartshorn when the center opened.
The center’s mission recognizes the power of photography to shape contemporary culture. The design of the school’s transparent entry pavilion opens the discipline to a broad audience — the general public, students and professionals in the field. Below ground, the educational facility includes classrooms, darkrooms, digital labs, and student and community exhibition space.
MetLife expanded its New York City presence in 2008. The move to the west side of Bryant Park links the company to the rich resources, networks and cultural activities of an urban setting. The company’s new corporate workplace is centrally located to all transportation centers, and MetLife occupies nine stories distributed throughout 1095 Avenue of the Americas, a property that Gensler helped the building owners to reposition strategically.
Gensler held a two-day charrette and commissioned a multi-generational research study to address MetLife’s desire for a space that was both green and accommodating to its diverse and mobile workforce. The findings pointed to a dynamic, diverse, educational and social environment that supports a healthy, restorative balance between work and life — the result, an urban campus, with Bryant Park as the central quad.
In keeping with the desire to link MetLife’s offices to views and amenities offered by Bryant Park, the workplace design places communal spaces along the floor perimeter. MetLife's signature space, the double-height Sky Garden, is located on the 23rd floor. Overlooking the park, the flexible Sky Garden functions as a 200-seat auditorium, an event space, and as a lounge where colleagues can have casual meetings and entertain clients.
“The park has influenced some of the most public spaces of MetLife’s new home and how they define themselves in their community,” said Gensler New York Workplace Leader Tom Vecchione.
Each workplace floor — there are six — draws inspiration from the surrounding Manhattan streetscape. Promenade-like circulation areas along Sixth Avenue engage the park and host communal areas. Public functions are placed at the vibrant corner of 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue.
Prominently sited on Bryant Park’s west side, Bank of America’s environmentally responsible office tower rises 51 stories above the park’s lawn. Gensler designed Bank of America’s interiors, 36 floors, and is seeking LEED® Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Base-building architect Cook + Fox and co-developer The Durst Organization are aiming for LEED® Platinum.
Sustainable strategies ensure superb air quality on each office floor, and the base building’s glass curtain wall maximizes daylighting. Client spaces and large meeting rooms are located on the fourth and fifth floors — just above the height of the tree line — and benefit from striking park and city views. A natural extension of the workplace, the park offers a spot for lunch, or, equipped with Wi-Fi, an inspired collaboration.
The bright and colorful Children’s Room at the New York Public Library is the most recent project to open on Bryant Park. The 3,100-square-foot space is located within the landmark Humanities and Social Science Library.
The 1911 structure is a Midtown icon, and artist Susy Pilgrim Waters used signature buildings as the theme of her mural in the children’s room. With New York City as the starting point, her design takes young viewers on a global tour of iconic cultural and architectural landmarks.
The Children’s Room is part of the library’s feasibility study begun in 2006. Among other improvements Gensler evaluated the feasibility of a new circulating library overlooking Bryant Park. The space, located below the library’s Rose Reading Room currently houses seven levels of stacks and a basement. The future scheme will invite the public inside the Beaux-Arts building and visually connect them to the outdoor green space.
Vincent Laforet /The New York Times/Redux: page 1
Peiti Chia — Gensler Firmwide Communications: page 2a
Nick Merrick/Hedrich Blessing: page 2b-d
1095 Avenue of the Americas, Project Team: page 3
Eric Laignel: page 4
Paúl Rivera/archphoto: page 5
New York Public Library, Project Team: page 6
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