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Ford Foundation tropical garden Untapped CitiesThe tropical foliage and pond inside the Ford Foundation Building. Source: KRJDA.

On a walk west on 42nd Street from the neo-Gothic-infused neighborhood of Tudor City, the Ford Foundation Building introduces a dramatic change of scenery. It stands somewhat fortress-like, its exterior giving few hints about the building’s true architectural brilliance. Of course, from the outside, you’re also blind to the full brilliance of the landscape architecture within.  

Inside the building, a lush tropical garden on the ground level forms the focal point of an enormous and sunlit 10-story glass atrium. Amazingly, keeping this garden watered doesn’t deplete city utilities; the building’s roof captures rainwater, and during dry periods, the garden is kept healthy with a stored water supply.

Glancing up towards the roof, the greenery continues. Ferns and vines hang down from girders above, and small trees are visible from the top floors. The garden’s serene aura is aided by the fragrance of gardenias, and the sound of running water supplying a pool hidden amid the trees. The Ford Foundation was completed in 1967 and designated a national landmark in 1997.

If we weren’t writers/explorers and had to work in an office building, this would be the one we’d choose. Luckily, you don’t have to work at the Ford Foundation to absorb a little zen from their garden, because it’s a privately owned public space. It’s open to the public on weekdays from 10 AM to 4 PM.

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