1211 Sixth Avenue

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At 21,872 square feet, this plaza is the smallest of three Harrison and Abramovitz-designed spaces set in front of immense office towers developed by the Rockefeller Center interests on the west side of Sixth Avenue between West 47th and 50th Streets. The concentration of such large, relatively empty public spaces and deep building setbacks stirred up thorny urban planning questions soon after their appearance, and contributed in 1975 to the adoption of a zoning amendment for plazas that would dramatically alter the nature of future spaces at office buildings. A fuller discussion of this issue is provided in the profile of the public space at 1251 Sixth Avenue.

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

Unlike its two sibling spaces to the north, at the McGraw-Hill building and 1251 Sixth Avenue, this plaza does not fully span its blockfront on Sixth Avenue. A wing of building juts out to the public sidewalk at the northwest corner of West 47th Street and Sixth Avenue, providing a southern enclosure to the plaza and mitigating the feeling of monumentality. Given the location of the wing, the plaza cannot mimic the flanking two-terrace design of its siblings, and instead provides one elevated terrace at the southwest corner of West 48th Street and Sixth Avenue, with four fixed wooden benches, shrubbery, and trees. The ledge bordering the sidewalk is heavily used by people watchers. An entrance to the subway and underground concourse at Rockefeller Center is also located near here. Television’s embrace of public space, shown daily at the plaza of the General Motors Building at Trump International Plaza through CBS, is realized here by the Fox network.

Like its sibling Rockefeller Center buildings, this one has a covered, outdoor, through-block space at back which, unlike their spaces, is required to be open and accessible to the public. This two-story through block arcade constitutes the final link in a meandering four-block chain that starts at West 44th Street with the through block connection at Millennium Broadway, and continues with the through block connections at Bertelsmann and United States Trust. Here, retail stores and a café front the arcade. The festive banners that once lined the space have been removed. At a recent site visit, tables and chairs associated with the café were arrayed in the middle. No record of City approval for such use has been found. Escalators to the below-grade subway concourse and Rockefeller Center underground complex are located on the western side.


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