320 East 46th Street

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Most of this residential plaza is located behind the building, on the north side of East 45th Street between First and Second Avenues. The design of the space creates increasingly less public environments as the user moves from street to building. At front, up several steps, is the public zone, an open terrace bordered by planters stocked with trees and shrubs. Planter walls are angled to create niches for the built-in wooden benches. Deeper in and up more steps is a smaller, less public zone enveloped by overhanging trees and plantings. Additional bench and ledge seating is available. Completing the transition from public to private realms is a strip of “visual residual” residential plaza that, under the Zoning Resolution, is a “landscaped visual amenity” not required to be physically accessible to the public.

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

As beneficial, even unusual, as this parklike space may be, its location behind the building and interposition of a visual residual greenbelt make it feel remote, even forgotten, a perception exacerbated by the overgrown vegetation. Residents may walk past the space if they use the back entrance, and even enter it through two gates, but the design of the ramped corridor all but guarantees physical separation. It is interesting to ponder whether, or how, this space would be different were it situated near the front of the building on East 46th Street, where more visual residual residential plaza space flanks the main entrance.

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