650 Fifth Avenue

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The usable portion of this two-level outdoor and indoor public space, on the south side of West 52nd Street roughly 50 feet west of Fifth Avenue, is virtually invisible from the street, buried under the building and accessible by escalator. Here, a combination of cellar floor public space and covered pedestrian space furnishes a small, indoor, climate-controlled area with black café tables and chairs and an adjacent food service. The design employs high vaulted ceilings, glass windows with exterior glimpses, warm lighting, and a brick patio surface to reasonable effect. The space designer labeled an outdoor portion of below-ground space a public winter garden, conjuring up grand images that are quickly deflated by the dimensions and amenities. In the past, the outdoor portion has furnished seating and a tree. Back at street level, the remaining part of the covered pedestrian space is located under the overhanging building, open to the air and serviceable as a smoking area. The triangular cutout next to the escalators hints at the space below.

Photo: Kayden et al. (2000)
Photo: Kayden et al. (2000)

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