747 Third Avenue

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Although the slim depth of this plaza on part of the east side of Third Avenue and on East 46th and 47th Streets would normally leave little opportunity for creativity of design, the owner’s de facto annexation of the adjacent public sidewalk into the plaza’s aesthetic and functional orbit dramatically expands its overall impact. Immediately upon crossing East 46th or 47th Streets, the pedestrian necessarily engages the spatial experience. A sinuous red-tile and yellow-brick paving pattern covers the floor as well as vertical protuberances from building edge to street curb, interrupting and directing pedestrian flow north, south, east, and west. “Follow the yellow brick-edged road” is the best advice for navigating these sidewalks. For the public space specialist, the easiest on-site method for determining where plaza ends and public sidewalk begins is to eyeball the location of building edges north and south, across East 46th or 47th Streets.

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

In front of the Third Avenue entrance to the office tower is a wood-decked urban veranda, three steps above the plaza floor, under red canopies. Although movable veranda-style chairs would have been of a piece, the fixed wooden seats are clearly appreciated by users. Curving wood benches and stools span the plaza and public sidewalk at various points along the three street frontages, usually as part of sculpted armadillo-shaped brick berms and mounds. Some are covered with large blue canopies. Images of a horse pulling a fruit cart and a boy awaiting an ice cream truck are painted on the brick walls east of the loading docks and driveways on East 46th and 47th Streets. Miscellaneous amenities, including a bicycle rack on East 46th Street, a pay phone structure on East 47th Street, and antique-style lamps complete the space appointments.

The developer of 747 Third Avenue, the Kaufman organization, has consistently demonstrated a strong commitment to developing public spaces that exceed the requirements specified by zoning. A Kaufman space is best known for its sense of humor, pop-art colors, fanciful amenities, bright lights, and/or artwork. In prior years, Melvyn Kaufman has sought acknowledgment from City officials of his efforts expended in excess of those required by the original 1961 Zoning Resolution for “as-of-right” plazas and arcades. This space, as well as spaces at 200 Water Street and 77 Water Street downtown, deserve special mention. The Kaufman organization itself consistently gives credit where credit is due. Plaques here cite the architects, designers, contractors, artists, and, most interestingly, the public, announcing, “This building was completed in 1972. We recognize that our right to build it was derived from you, the people. Around you is our expression of gratitude. We feel certain that you will join us in acknowledging those designers who had you in mind throughout.”


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1 User Submission

  1. submitted by: Danielle Thomson

    I find this space incredibly charming and filled with whimsy. It’s almost impossible to walk by and not smile to yourself.