1221 Avenue of the Americas: Refreshing an Iconic Location with the Amenities to Match

A New Spin on the Traditional Office Tower

Sixth Avenue is the quintessential center of New York City business. The very name evokes a cinematic montage of skyscrapers and Manhattan’s workforce bustling about, ascending from the subways and hailing cabs in suits and ties. Over the years however, business attire has relaxed to more casual attire, and this shift in fashion mirrors a change in the typical office buildings and workplaces themselves, which are becoming increasingly more collaborative, open and centered on the tenant experience and employee well-being. The team behind 1221 Avenue of the Americas, Rockefeller Group’s contemporary, Midtown office tower, have taken this idea to heart and are leading the charge to upgrade the building with a stunning new lobby designed by MdeAS Architects, complete with thoughtful amenities to anticipate and satisfy the needs of its thousands of daily tenants and guests. 

Collaborative, casual seating area in the lobby of 1221 Avenue of the Americas. Photo Credit: Chris Bacarella

Not Your Average Coffee Shop

Naturally, no matter how the workplace evolves, coffee still plays a vital role. At 1221, it comes from Zibetto’s Espresso Bar. Mikael Olsson, the CEO of the Italian-inspired café, dreamed of one day opening a location in one of the skyscrapers on Sixth Avenue and was pleased to find that Zibetto’s sophisticated aesthetic would be a perfect complement to the 1221 lobby, which underwent a two-year revitalization to transform with the times. “All the work they did is beautiful and matches our concept and design, allowing us to be part of the lobby and still a separate entity,” Olsson said. “People need a reprieve, to get away from their desks for 5 minutes, stretch their legs and become more efficient for the day. There are also plenty of customers at Zibetto’s for meetings in a casual atmosphere. They close business deals, and it is not uncommon to see contracts being signed and people holding interviews and meetings at our location.”

Mikael notes that Zibetto’s, and the other high-end ground floor retailers at 1221 Avenue of the Americas, elevate the overall lobby experience. This is, in part, due to the simple factor of convenience. In the fast-paced, modern workplace breaks are increasingly valuable for employees and Zibetto’s location has made it a popular spot for tenants and visitors alike. “If you offer a good service, I’m sure it makes it easier to attract tenants,” Olsson asserted. “Some people visit from nearby buildings, and we serve plenty of passersby too.”  It helps that 1221 Avenue of the Americas was developed in the modern expansion of Rockefeller Center to the west side of Sixth Avenue in the early 1970s, adding more than 8 million square feet of premier office space in four adjacent buildings, all interconnected underground by the passageways of the Rockefeller Center concourse.

Zibetto Espresso Bar at 1221 Avenue of the Americas. Photo Credit: Chris Bacarella

Art at the Forefront of a Thoughtful Design

It’s a subtle transition from Zibetto’s to the main lobby, thanks to the modern furniture recently installed outside the shop’s double doors, which open to the new lounge meeting area and make way for the lobby’s stunning focal point: the Mark Bradford art installation. The lobby boasts two 22.5-foot-high canvases, which display mixed-media depictions of the Manhattan grid, along the central corridor. Two 20-foot-long marble tables run alongside, creating a casual gallery setting for guests to enjoy.

According to Bill Edwards, Rockefeller Group’s Senior Vice President of Core Holdings, Mark Bradford’s commissioned artwork played a pivotal role in the MdeAS Architects’ overhaul of the lobby, as Principal Dan Shannon worked directly with Bradford to ensure the materials and layout aligned. The team installed larger windows for a lighter, friendlier environment and removed several non-structural columns on the exterior facade of 49th Street, extending the renovations to the plaza’s outdoor space for enhanced continuity.

“The coffee bar and paintings add to the ambiance, and we wanted to extend that area for creation and collaboration,” Edwards said. “It was a bit of a blank slate on the south side of the lobby, and the furniture activates it. We wanted something comfortable, for people to step out of their office and have a moment to relax, take a meeting, or break from the traditional work environment and simply enjoy the open, expansive space of the lobby.”

Today, a collection of food trucks conveniently line the street daily creating a hub of outdoor activity and the new furniture serves as an organic addition to the inviting interior space, energizing the south side of the lobby.

Driving the Workplace Revolution

Edwards notes that owners and operators everywhere are more driven to improve their building experiences, and while Rockefeller Group is proud to have an iconic location like 1221, the game is changing, and the amenities need to match the new standard of quality.

“It used to be about keeping just the C-suite and heads of facilities satisfied,” said Edwards. “Now it’s about the thousands of people coming through the lobby doors every day. We’re increasingly focused on the power of the individual experience and the delivery of convenience and choice.”