New Yorkers are generally well off when it comes to communing with nature. From the giant municipal Central and Prospect Parks to outdoor spaces such as Bryant Park and Riverside Park, the city provides all manner of welcome escapes from the urban jungle. But much less well known is an actual tropical jungle hidden away on East 43rd Street. What makes it so remarkable is that it is to be found inside an office building.
Built in 1967 by Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo, the building was designed as the home of the Ford Foundation, Henry and Edsel Ford’s humanitarian charity organization. Twelve stories high and constructed of glass and steel, the building is an oversize tropical greenhouse. In the bizarre garden lush giant trees dwarf shrubs, magnolias, and garden terraces which slope down to verdant water pools. Stretching up to the roof on two sides, the open-plan offices of the Ford Foundation enable workers to look out across the tropical forest into each other’s offices. The two giant glass walls and ceiling act as a large-scale greenhouse, creating the tropical conditions for the plant life to thrive year round. Even real rainfall is collected on the roof and is added to the steam condensation from inside to water the plants and fill the water pools.
One of the most remarkable buildings in the city, this unexpected tropical oasis just a wall away from the bustle of 43rd Street is open to the public all year long.