It’s an iconic botanical wonderland, but there’s a lesser-known lush escape closer to the centre of Manhattan to discover. Inside the Ford Foundation’s striking modern headquarters on East 42nd Street – close to the renowned Patsy’s Pizzeria – is the most unexpected, magical sight: this tranquil tropical garden growing inside the lobby!
Walk through the heavy door and you find yourself standing in an incredible 12-story glass atrium, filled with towering trees, hanging ferns, the fresh smell of gardenias and the gentle sound of trickling water. It’s a transporting space that feels a million miles from the craziness of Manhattan’s streets – what’s even more incredible is that although it’s a privately owned space, it’s open to the public daily – and it’s free!
It was built in 1967 as part of the home of Henry Ford’s humanitarian charity organisation. Stretching up to the roof on two sides, the open-plan offices of the Ford Foundation allow people working there to look out across the tropical forest into each other’s offices.
The atrium is made out of two giant glass walls and ceiling, which pretty much act as a huge greenhouse, creating tropical conditions for plant life, where lush giant trees dwarf shrubs, magnolias and garden terraces which slope down to pools of water.
To keep the plants alive, 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. It’s amazing!
Visit the Ford Foundation Atrium at East 42nd Street.