Mirror Finish

Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo’s Ambassador Grill is now a NYC landmark

East News Preservation
Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo’s Ambassador Grill is now a NYC landmark. (Courtesy Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates)
Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo’s Ambassador Grill is now a NYC landmark. (Courtesy Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates)

Update 1/17/17: This post initially stated that the LPC excluded a colonnaded hallway and seating area near the lobby from the designation. The LPC included the colonnaded hallway, but excluded the seating area and the elevator hallway that connects the lobby and the Ambassador Grill. The post was updated with additional reporting to support these changes.

Today the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) voted unanimously to landmark Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo Associates’ Ambassador Grill and Lounge and Hotel Lobby at the United Nations Hotel.

The vote came after preservationists mobilized to seek protection for the interiors: A sequence of lush and mirrored spaces that today evoke the glamour of the disco era. New owners Millennium Hotels and Resorts, who bought the space five years ago and renamed it One UN New York, were set to convert the rooms to a more contemporary style. The Ambassador Grill and Lounge and Hotel Lobby opened in 1976 and 1983, respectively.

In light of development pressure, the LPC moved swiftly to calendar the item in September, and the commission heard (all positive) public testimony from the likes of Docomomo, Robert A.M. Stern, Alexandra Lange, and others, in November.

Plan of Ambassador Grill & Lounge and Hotel Lobby. The lobby seating area is outlined in yellow. (Courtesy LPC / Image via Theodore Grunewald)

Plan of Ambassador Grill and Lounge and Hotel Lobby. The Lobby and Grill and Lounge are highlighted in red, while the non-designated lobby seating area is outlined in yellow. (Courtesy LPC / Image via Theodore Grunewald)

To the regret of many preservationists, the LPC decided not to include a seating area adjacent to the lobby’s colonnaded hallway and the elevator hallway that connects the two landmarked rooms.

“I’m happy the LPC called out the columned hallway, perhaps limiting the alteration of the lounge, but it’s disappointing the [non-designated] areas didn’t come up in the commissioner’s deliberations today,” said preservation activist Theodore Grunewald. “While we know that virtually no historic preservation battle is ever ‘100 percent,’ and that preservation requires flexibility and must include [necessary] compromises, the exclusion of the seating area is still troubling.”

At today’s vote, which took all of 15 minutes, LPC researcher Matt Postal called Roche and Dinkeloo’s work “lavish” and “exceptionally well preserved, [some of] the best public spaces of the 1970s and 80s in New York City.”

Like all city landmarks, the rooms have one final hurdle to clear: The City Council will vote in the coming weeks to officially adopt—or in rare cases, refute—the LPC’s designation.

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