EXCLUSIVE: Phyllis Lambert responds to the planned auction of the Four Seasons Restaurant furniture and décor

(Jennifer Calais Smith)

The Architect’s Newspaper published Public Preview to Precede Auction of Four Seasons Restaurant Furniture and Décor on April 27 as a “fire sale” blog. This story reported on the sale and auction of the furniture and fittings of the legendary Four Seasons restaurant by the building’s current owner Aby Rosen. In response to the planned destruction of the restaurant—certainly the grandest modernist restaurant design in the world—Phyllis Lambert, who was the client and driving force behind the restaurant, sent us an open letter to Rosen. Here is that letter:

To Aby

I am writing a plea to you concerning what is still the Four Seasons Restaurant in the Seagram Building. My plea is to keep in place the furniture designed by Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson, and therefore to maintain the authenticity of two of the world’s greatest rooms.

Great public places are very rarely created. Their presence, unchanged, maintains continuity of place and of ritual, which is socially and spiritually essential in all societies. You are in the very enviable position as heir to such a place. Here, within an established tradition of greatness, you can choose the restaurateur and the programs. At the same time, you are installing a new restaurant in the new building you have commissioned that is now in construction immediately adjacent to the Seagram Building at 100 East 53rd Street. There you can invent the very atmosphere you wish to have. You have the extraordinary chance in 2017, and another generation, of emulating the superb quality of Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson’s rooms.

Great rooms by architects from Michelangelo to Robert Adam, Alvar Aalto, Le Corbusier, and Mies are gesamtkunstwerk, an all-embracing art that includes every aspect of the interior and the exterior architecture. As heir to the Four Seasons Restaurant designed by Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson, my plea to you is to accept the very generous offer of its owners to acquire the furniture (they own it) at less than replacement cost.

The nature of the food can change, as it has in such great restaurants as the Grand Véfour in Paris, renowned for over two hundred years for the tradition of its unchanged décor and its gastronomy. After having responded with a ludicrous price when offered to acquire the Four Season’s name, and having the great Picasso curtain removed from the travertine passage linking the bar-grill and the pool rooms, you still have the opportunity to maintain the character and reinforce the tradition of this extraordinary place. A decision to acquire the furniture will secure you a place in the annals of history.

—Phyllis Lambert

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