60 Wall Street contains something rare in Lower Manhattan – public space, a half-acre atrium where people can congregate throughout the day. Accessible through monumental granite arcades that open to Wall and Pine Streets, as well as from the Wall Street IRT (2/3) subway station, such permanent public amenities allow developers to erect significantly taller and larger structures than are generally permitted by the New York City zoning resolution. Originally built for J.P. Morgan & Co., this 55-story tower is now the American headquarters of Deutsche Bank.

Kevin Roche, of the architectural firm Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo & Associates, designed 60 Wall Street and this spacious, high-ceilinged interior. Roche pioneered the idea of the atrium when he built the Ford Foundation on East 42nd Street in 1963-67. Praised by artist-critic Dan Graham, the foundation’s semi-public enclosed garden anticipates Roche’s subsequent courtyard for the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which opened in 1980.

The atrium at 60 Wall Street was completed in 1989 – the heyday of Post-Modernism. During this era architects revived the use of familiar historic forms, integrating a wide range of decorative influences into their work. While many found inspiration in the classical tradition, others, like Roche, took a looser, less doctrinaire approach. Roche embellished this room with various decorative features, including a gridded ceiling that recalls English garden pavilions, striped Egyptoid columns, and craggy stone fountains that seem to be of Chinese origin. The artificial palm trees, which line both sides of the room, may have been inspired by the real ones planted inside the Winter Garden at Brookfield Place.

Regardless of how this eclectic decoration is judged, the atrium at 60 Wall Street is a decent place to sit and spend some time. Furthermore, unlike a sad number of bonus spaces, it meets the various standards set by the New York City Planning Commission as well as Harvard planner Jerold S. Kayden, who developed a website with the Municipal Art Society (http://apops.mas.org/) that documents and monitors the condition of POPS, which stands for “Privately Owned Public Spaces”.

Public space is clearly at a premium in Lower Manhattan and the atrium at 60 Wall Street attracts a constant and varied mix of users, from neighborhood office workers eating lunch to organized groups, such as Occupy Wall Street, which gathered here to socialize, strategize, and warm up during their 2011 activities.

Matthew A. Postal


Cross Streets: Wall Street between William & Pearl Streets