400 East 84th Street

Unlike some Upper East Side residential plazas that use high planters to create internalized, isolated space away from the street, or that separate the residential entrance from the rest of the space, this rectangular brick residential plaza at the southeast corner of First Avenue and East 84th Street is content to open itself up to full scrutiny from everyone. Although planters line much of its perimeter, they are low and thus do not create any visual barrier to the space. Curved ledge seating along the well-manicured planters is available in various configurations at east and west ends, disappointing only because tiny vertical stone slabs subdivide the ledge into individual units. Indeed, the only ledge without the dividers has a railing that fully prevents seating. Is it really necessary to stop individuals from slouching or lying down at this space?

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

If outsiders are generally welcomed by design, insiders are pleasantly integrated as well. The entrance to the building is in the middle of the primary space, and the capacious pathway is not covered by a long canopy or otherwise distinguished by segregating structure or planters. By placing the lobby entrance right in the middle, the doorman can see and be seen, providing a sense of security and care that is evident in the high levels of maintenance here. At the eastern end of the space behind a gate is visual residual space, with more landscaping and a pathway not legally required to be accessible to the public. Nonetheless, a restaurant and outdoor seating entice the user to enter.

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