1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY
Completion Date: 2021 Rockefeller Group Development Corporation, Client Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, Architect Ove ARUP & Partners, Engineer Higgins, Quasebarth & Partners, Preservation Consultant Ken Smith Workshop, Landscape Architect Albert Vecerka / ESTO, Photography 1271 Avenue of the Americas (formerly the Time Life Building) is recognized as a Mid-Century-Modern icon in New York City. The set-back building and urban plaza was one of the first of its type in New York City, and the prototype for the subsequent “X,Y and Z” buildings that were part of the expansion of Rockefeller Center in the early 1960’s. This historically significant building and plaza underwent a sensitive and carefully considered program of restoration, modernization and improvement. The urban plaza renovation, while faithful to the original 1959 design concepts, introduced a number of significant improvements and adjustments to the original design. Reconfiguring the front plaza and water feature was the biggest public space challenge. The original plaza fountain was a rectangular pool attached to the face of the tower’s façade. Proportionally this created an awkward plaza space that was neither sidewalk nor configured plaza space. To redress this issue a new stepped feature that combined water fountain element, seating and planting was designed to mediate between the sidewalk and the plaza. There were significant design challenges in the renovation of the plaza paving, street trees, and reconfigured water feature. The plaza, with its signature serpentine paving pattern inspired by the sidewalks at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, creates a unique sense of place in the Rockefeller Center district. This project transformed the entire plaza—replacing the original large fountain with smaller-scale elements that are more pedestrian-friendly, and adding a new breezeway connecting Sixth Avenue to the main lobby. The paving pattern unifies both building lobby interior and the exterior plaza areas and was originally constructed of matching terrazzo material, which ultimately did not weather well in the NYC climate and was replaced in the early-1990’s with a “rustic terrazzo” installation, which also failed to wear well over time. The challenge was to match the material and finish of the exterior paving to the interior lobby finish with paving construction that would weather well. This was done by developing a custom high-test reinforced cast-in-place pigmented concrete with integral marble aggregate that was surface ground to expose the marble chips. The paving dividers strips to separate the color bands in the paving were custom fabricated with durable ¼-inch wide stainless-steel bands. There was significant research and development involved in the process, multiple samples and a full-scale 30’x30’ mock-up to test the paving design.