This urban plaza at the northeast corner of Park Avenue and East 40th Street is divided into formal and functional zones. The formal exists in the void created by the building’s architecture, which has sliced off the southwest corner of the office tower. Elevated slightly above the public sidewalk, the capacious, granite-paved triangle embraces the horizontal plane and provides a visual foreground setting off the impressive columns of the glass-covered arcade and multistory lobby. The hollow quality of the pavers may be attributable to the fact that a parking garage is located below. Steps and a planter ledge at the northwest portion provide seating opportunities along Park Avenue.
A volcano-shaped fountain hides the functional zone, a fingerlike extension off the formal space along East 40th Street. This narrow multilevel rectangular area features a startling array of granite surfaces that might initially be mistaken for steps; in fact, these are all seating surfaces, which include a long, undulating, granite ledge, steplike ledges, and ledges around six planters filled with lush trees and shrubs bordering the sidewalk edge. Oriented as they are toward the street, the ledges resemble bleacher seats, although the view to the street below is largely blocked by the trees. Two semiprivate nooks may be found at the far eastern end, including a circular alcove nine steps above the public sidewalk, and a triangular area in front of a café 10 steps above and east of the circular space. A nighttime visit to this part of the urban plaza reveals the 240 linear feet of fluorescent lighting found within the silver handrails, as well as the uplight in the volcano fountain.
Although the sidewalk widening is located on East 41st Street, the public sidewalks on East 40th and Park Avenue themselves receive special treatment. Along East 40th Street, the trees on the sidewalk and in the space collaborate to form a canopy that refreshes the passing pedestrian. Bronze plaques featuring images of famous buildings are spaced along the sidewalk on East 40th Street and Park Avenue.