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Biophilic travels: a verdant area in the heart of the city

in biophilic travels

Peace and nature are rare finds in the context of urban environments.

In this episode of Biophilic Travels, an urban public space that creates a peaceful and nature-centered atmosphere through biophilic elements

a new destination

550 Madison Avenue Garden transforms the existing corridor between two buildings into a pocket park. Breathing life into a previously overlooked space, the project creates a new destination for the community, a restorative area in the middle of the city.

The space is rich are layered, with hilly planted areas giving an organic feel to the landscape and a waterfall wall introducing the sound, freshness, and sensory richness of water. A rainwater retention system takes care of the garden’s irrigation without further water usage. The area is organized into thematic outdoor rooms: the waterfall room, the woodland room… A varied layout that adds an explorative side to the experience, inviting visitors to walk through the meandering path to discover the next room. Open and secluded areas alternate, providing options to enjoy the space for gathering as well as for quiet private moments. Among the amenities, a food and beverage offer preferring fresh produce, healthy nutritional profiles, and sustainable sourcing adds a culinary element to the experience, engaging the sense of taste.

View of the new biophilic pocket park.
Credit: Snøhetta – Ph: Barret Doherty
Front view of the water wall.
Credit: Snøhetta — Visualization: MOARE
Helicopter view of the area.
Credit: Snøhetta — Visualization: MOARE

life through seasons

The project takes local weather conditions into close consideration, making sure the area can be enjoyed throughout the seasons.

A clear glass overhead canopy turns the park into an outside-yet-covered destination during rainy and snowy days. For winter, warmth is offered by a steam pit that blows out heated vapour. Topped with organic rocks and surrounded by a round bench, the pit makes outdoor life more comfortable even when temperatures are low.

Front view of the park from the street.
Credit: Snøhetta — Visualization: MOARE
Helicopter view of the steam pit.
Credit: Snøhetta – Ph: Barret Doherty

elevating local identity

550 Madison is a landmark of the city and any redesign requires its history to be respected. The building lobby has been redesigned yet not disrupted, opening the view to the newly planted space from within the building as well as from the street. In the park, the round shapes that repeat throughout pay homage to the building’s architectural signature: the Chippendale roofline that made it stand out since its inception.

As a whole, the new garden area integrates gently into the existing urban fabric, adding to a historic space while keeping it recognizable. The park invites life into a defining landmark of the city, strengthening the sense of place while respecting its history.

View highlighting the distinctive round elements.
Credit: Snøhetta – Ph: Barret Doherty

designing for nature

Designing for the natural world as well, native seasonal plants give local nature more space and create an authentic habitat for birds, butterflies, and pollinators. Carefully designed exterior lighting respects animal life by reducing light pollution and disturbance.

From the visitor’s perspective, a lively environment provides richer exposure to nature through movements and seasonal changes while layered lighting creates interesting light and shadow plays.

View of the park area at night.
Credit: Snøhetta — Visualization: MOARE

Quality public space is a building block of community. Within an existing urban environment, this project carves a biophilic urban space that invites communal life, strengthens the sense of place, and allows people and nature to thrive together.

Biophilic design resources by anooi:
A Biophilic YearApplying Biophilic DesignVisual Library of Biophilic Design