550 Madison

LASA VENATO VENA D’ORO® for the lobby of a postmodern landmark

The 197-metre tall, 37-storey skyscraper at 550 Madison Avenue in Midtown Manhattan is considered an iconic landmark of postmodernism. At the end of August 2022, the conversion of the New York skyscraper into a modern, next-generation office building was completed. Lasa Marmo supplied 700 m2 of large-format wall panels and some solid window reveals in the commercial grade LASA VENATO VENA D’ORO® for the walls of the redesigned lobby, which features a spectacular work of art by Polish-German artist Alicja Kwade.

Designed by US architects Philip Johnson and John Burgee in 1979 and completed in 1984, the New York City skyscraper is one of the world's most famous postmodernist buildings. It was built as the headquarters for the US telephone company AT&T, after which the building belonged to Sony until the current owner, the Saudi Olayan Group and the British Chelsfield as co-developers, took over the building in 2016. For the redesign of the lobby, the building owners commissioned the globally active design and architecture firm, Gensler, from San Francisco (California). In addition, Alicja Kwade, a German artist of Polish origin, was found as a sculptor and installation artist to fill the space with "Solid Sky", a monumental installation. It is a 24-tonne quartzite sphere made of blue Azul do Macaubas, which hangs from the lobby ceiling at a height of 14 metres, attached to 10 stainless steel chains. The piece of quartzite has been rotated to match the 23.5-degree axial tilt of the earth. The lower part of Solid Sky hangs 3.7 metres above the lobby floor, making it out of reach but close enough to create a very tangible (and somewhat nerve-wracking) presence. The interior walls of the lobby were clad in white refined LASA marble of the LASA VENATO VENA D’ORO® variety. For this purpose, Lasa Marmo's partner, CSCE Services Corp., laid 3 cm thick large-format wall panels (280x90cm) over an area of around 700 m2, as well as several solid window reveals to completely cover the inner wall surface of the large round window. To keep the space on a human scale, Gensler additionally fitted the seams between the wall and the vault with mirrors and covered them with mesh panels. The resulting light reflections scatter and make the crystals, which are well and evenly interlocked in the LASA marble, sparkle. The wall surfaces below the LASA marble-clad walls are covered with bronze expanded metal panels. They colour-match the lobby to the special characteristics of LASA VENATO VENA D’ORO® with its streaky to cloudy golden yellow, orange to brownish grains. Gensler's goal was to preserve the essence of the original space, retaining the height, volume and vaulted ceilings of the lobby while creating a "bright, minimalist space." "We took inspiration from the large volumes and spatial proportions of the 550 Madison Lobby and sought to honour its impressive scale with simple, classic and elegant forms and materials," says Philippe Paré, Principal and Design Director at Gensler. "The result is a space that is calm as well as powerful; respectful but not a reproduction; timeless, yet very modern."

For Lasa Marmo, the project itself, which coincided with the Corona pandemic lockdowns, presented a distinct challenge. "Due to the lockdowns, it was extremely difficult to coordinate the processes and have the material at the Lasa Marmo plant accepted by an international planning team", emphasises Lasa Marmo project manager Patrick Pritzi. "Despite the forced break, we were able to deliver the processed material to the full satisfaction of the customer and without any delays in construction. For example, the inspection of the entire area laid out in Italy was accepted in a single day by means of live drone transmission before the parts destined for assembly were numbered and packed", explains Patrick Pritzi of Lasa Marmo.

Project information

New York, USA, 2020

Product: Large-format wall panels (280x90cm)
Solid window reveals

Volume: 700 m2

Surface: honed

Architect: Gensler

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