The design of 885 Third Avenue, known as the Lipstick Building for its curving, telescoping form, permits a break from the rectangular geometry of most public spaces. The pedestrian circulation space consists of everything outside the indoor area of the building. This includes the two-story arcade, as well as all open space, on the east side of Third Avenue, the north side of East 53rd Street, and the south side of East 54th Street. Framed by polished, marble-clad columns, the arcade offers a 300-degree promenade that is noticeably curvaceous. Indeed, at its westernmost point, it virtually touches the eastern border of the Third Avenue public sidewalk. At a recent site visit, the arcade space on East 54th Street was partly obstructed by café tables and chairs. No record of City approval for the tables and chairs has been found.
Like the public space at 599 Lexington Avenue several blocks to the southeast, the space here was obtained as part of the special permit authorizing a floor area bonus in return for a subway improvement. Constructed of rough-hewn granite, the new stairwell at the northeast corner of Lexington Avenue and East 53rd Street to the subway also provides a planter and landscaping. Further east on East 53 rd Street is a grove of 12 trees and a bicycle rack. The East 54th Street side has another seven trees.