303 East 43rd Street
International Plaza

At the northeast corner of Second Avenue and East 43rd Street is this small, pleasant, rectangular residential plaza. When it first appeared in the mid-1980s, the space suffered from construction newness. Gangly trees and plantings did not adequately break the sparse expanse of red brick extending from building edge to street curb. Now, however, time has allowed the trees to grow bigger and taller, and the building owner has wisely installed additional tree- and ivy-filled planters, resulting in a healthier balance between natural and constructed materials.

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

Other design touches continue to work well. By staying at sidewalk grade level and resisting the impulse to treat the plaza frontage along East 43rd Street differently from the public sidewalk, the space comes across as immediate and accessible. Fixed wire-mesh seating to the east and northeast, and ledge seating on interior and exterior sides of the triangular planter along the avenue, are comfortable, spacious, and inviting. The adjacent ground-floor retail space has active, transparent store windows rather than dead, opaque walls. Although the red-canopied corridor leading to the front door on the eastern side is segregated from the rest of the public space, it is clear that this building has not disowned its plaza.

 

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