It is deeply disappointing that the Landmarks Preservation Commission chose to approve a design which is so patently inappropriate for the Greenwich Village Historic District and for Jane Street. The design is barely changed from the one roundly criticized by the public and rejected in January. It still looks like a chain motel, it’s still too large, and it still sticks out like a sore thumb. The changes made by the architect since January are the proverbial rearranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic. This design might look at home next to the off-ramp of I-95, but it does not make sense on this historic side street. We hoped for better from this architect, and from the Landmarks Preservation Commission.Though the project received unanimous approval, the commission urged the architects to continue to refine the design, especially the windows at street level.
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Anbang knows the Waldorf’s history is a large part of what makes this hotel so special. That’s why we fully support the LPC’s recommendation for what would be one of the most extensive interior landmark designations of any privately owned building in New York. These designations are consistent with our vision and will protect the Waldorf’s significant public spaces. We are now finalizing renovation plans for the Waldorf that preserve these spaces and will ensure that the Waldorf will provide memorable experiences for generations to come. We look forward to sharing our plans publicly when they are complete.This article appears on HoverPin, a new app that lets you build personalized maps of geo-related online content based on your interests: architecture, food, culture, fitness, and more. Never miss The Architect’s Newspaper’s coverage of your city and discover new, exciting projects wherever you go! See our HoverPin layer here and download the app from the Apple Store.
This week David Chipperfield went back to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) for a second time, hoping to get approval for his heavily revised design for a West Village condo.
The architects first went before the LPC in July with a white precast concrete residence at 11 Jane Street. This time they were hoping to get the commission’s blessings—but no such luck.
The new design swaps concrete for red brick, and knocks ten feet off the total height to better align with the block's townhouses. The residence, presented in collaboration with Higgins Quasebarth & Partners, would replace a one-story parking garage.
In an email to supporters last week, preservation advocacy group the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) said the design is not appropriate for the street or in keeping with the overall ethos of the Greenwich Village Historic District.
"[Unfortunately] the new design is not much better than the old one (and may even be worse in some respects)," the email said. "While the new design is slightly shorter and uses a more appropriate brick material, instead of looking like a corporate office building it now looks like a corporate chain motel."
The commission mostly agreed. Though it said the current design "plays better with the neighbors,” commissioners took issue with the sliding windows and door, especially the narrower vertical glass doors to a row of second-floor terraces. To many that spoke, the entrances that flank the sides of the building, closed off from the sidewalk by a low metal gate, lacked the egress signifier that a stoop, for example, would provide.
“I just don’t think this very capable architect has reached the mark," said Commissioner Michael Devonshire. “Articulation in the district is extremely rich and this building lacks it."
Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan echoed Devonshire and added that the LPC must “work within the concept and not send it in another direction."
The LPC took no action and will review a revised design at a later date. Third time’s the charm, right?
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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.
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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The Jackie Robinson YMCA Youth Center, a vernacular-style townhouse on East 85th Street, Bergdorf Goodman, the Loew's 175th Street Theater, the Excelsior Steam Power Company Building (Manhattan), Brougham Cottage, the Lakeman-Cortelyou-Taylor House (Staten Island), St. Barbara’s Roman Catholic Church, and an Italianate building on Broadway (Brooklyn), as well as the Protestant Reform Dutch Church of Flushing (Queens) were all upgraded from backlog properties to landmarks.
AN is following the fate of Aalto's rooms closely; readers should check back soon for updates.
Today it took the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) only an hour to rebuke some of the city's most powerful real estate interests by designating 11 new landmarks in Midtown East.
After hearing public testimony on the Ambassador Grill & Lounge and Hotel Lobby, the commission decided that the Pershing Square Building and the Graybar Building, as well as the Shelton Hotel Building, the Yale Club of New York City, and seven smaller structures, all between East 39th to East 57th streets, from Fifth to Second avenues, were worthy of landmark status.
As the neighborhood is rezoned to allow developers to build more Class A office space, preservationists are concerned that increased height and density allowances will threaten the district's historic architecture. To address the neighborhood's challenges in the face of impending change, in 2014 Mayor Bill de Blasio created East Midtown Steering Committee, a coalition of city agencies, reals estate interests, and nonprofits tasked with creating guidelines to shape growth. The LPC was asked to collaborate with the Department of City Planning (DCP) to make sure important historic items were calendared before DCP moved ahead with the rezoning.
Even as LPC commissioners praised the partnership between their agency and DCP as a "model" of future collaboration, groups with a financial stake in Midtown East especially opposed landmarking buildings like the Pershing Square and Graybar, which harbor key subway and commuter rail access points.
Although city officials who represent the district supported the landmarking of the Pershing Square Building, the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), Grand Central Partnership, the Riders Alliance, and architect Vishaan Chakrabarti, the founder of Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU), argued in July that landmark status would make it harder to upgrade the infrastructure underneath, a potential damper on the neighborhood's projected growth.
The Graybar Building faced a similar geography of public opinion. Despite support from the Municipal Arts Society (MAS), Landmarks Conservancy, and city officials who represent the district, the landmarking was opposed by the owners, SL Green.
In today's meeting, the LPC refuted the real estate and transportation groups' arguments with an appeal to history. The Pershing Square Building especially, said Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan, was developed concurrently with crucial infrastructure. “Mass transit is part of this building. The commission recognizes infrastructure improvements will take place, and historic buildings can adapt to that.”
"The city is undergoing radical transformation," said commissioner Adi Shamir Baron. Highlighting the massive construction site that will soon be One Vanderbilt, she added that even as demolitions represent the health and growth of the city, "the designation of these buildings, individually but especially in aggregate, these 11 go some way towards filling that gaping hole."
Today the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) solicited input on the future of the city's best-known—and most threatened—postmodern interior.
The commission heard testimony from its research department and members of the public on ONE UN New York Hotel's (formerly the United Nations Hotel) Lobby and Ambassador Grill & Lounge, two glittery disco-era spaces designed by Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo Associates.
As recently as January, the spaces inside the Midtown East building were set to be demolished by property owner Millennium Hotels and Resorts.
Local luminaries like Robert A.M. Stern, Belmont Freeman, and Alexandra Lange, as well as a bi-coastal Docomomo contingent spoke in favor of landmarking. The item would be the first postmodern interior to be designated a New York City landmark, and the "youngest" after Roche and Dinkeloo's Ford Foundation (1963-68) which has interior and exterior landmark status.
The Ambassador Grill & Lounge, a small U-shaped restaurant in a windowless basement (1976), sports inset light fixtures, vaulted faux skylight clad in trellised mylar panels, and more shiny surfaces than Studio 54, all of which create the illusion of capaciousness and light. Along East 44th Street, the hotel lobby (1983) features a stepped glass dome roof accessed via a freestanding marble-columned hallway. The LPC’s research department called the connected rooms some of the "best public spaces" of New York from that period.
The researchers' conclusions were reflected in public testimony that invoked the glamour of the rooms and their role in the see-and-be-seen public life of the city. Liz Waytkus, executive director of modern architecture preservation organization Docomomo, called Roche and Dinkeloo's interiors “among the best” public spaces of the era. In contrast to the severity of modernism, the fluid spaces reflect a “humanistic” energy not often associated with the architecture of the time.
Docomomo’s Jessica Smith read a statement on behalf of Robert A.M. Stern. Stern offered “strong support” of designation, noting that Roche designed both the building itself and its interiors. He called the grill and lobby “masterworks of modernism produced by a master at his prime,” comparing them to surviving postmodern peers like Sir John Soane's Museum in London and Adolf Loos’s American Bar in Vienna. Smith also read a statement for Curbed architecture critic Alexandra Lange, who said her research on postwar American corporate design suggests the rooms represent a “key moment” in late modern design. "The interiors change scale and increase the sensuality of a pair of large skyscrapers that draw the prismatic curtain walls of the UN buildings inside, creating a total work of architecture."
To the frustration of many who testified, including Docomomo and the preservation advocacy organization Historic Districts Council (HDC), the commission did not include the lobby’s sunken seating area in the designation. The LPC said it believed the relative lack of original elements in the seating area merited exclusion, as the main lobby and hypostyle corridor under consideration offer a “processional experience” to and from the grill.
The iconic interiors have attracted attention beyond New York City. Daniel Paul, a Southern California–based architectural historian and expert in late modern glass skin architecture, flew in from L.A. to attend today’s meeting. Early this morning, he went to the hotel to check on the state of the interiors. Millennium, he said, has altered the space substantially but not irreversibly. In the grill, the faux skylight is covered in a semi-opaque “cheap-looking” plastic, while the neon acrylic wine racks were replaced by wood features. The bar’s tivoli lights are gone, and its mirrored backdrop has been replaced with wallpaper.
Despite the recent changes, Paul, a Docomomo member who with Waytkus drafted the RFE (a Request for Evaluation, the first step in the landmark process), said that Roche and Dinkeloo’s work is one of the most intact “high design” spaces of the era. “Taste goes in cycles,” he said. "When the cycle of appreciation takes a dip, that’s when these spaces are the most vulnerable." Roche has offered to work with the property owners pro bono to see how the distinctive features could be preserved while updating the space to their satisfaction. (Update: In an email to Paul during the hearing today, Roche stated that his office would be willing to do an initial consultation pro bono but then "see where it goes.")
Representatives from Millennium did not comment at today's meeting.
As the discussion concluded, LPC chair Meenakshi Srinivasan stated that the commission would do further research and vote at to-be-determined meeting.
Anbang knows the Waldorf’s history is a large part of what makes this hotel so special. That’s why we fully support the LPC’s recommendation for what would be one of the most extensive interior landmark designations of any privately owned building in New York. These designations are consistent with our vision and will protect the Waldorf’s significant public spaces. We are now finalizing renovation plans for the Waldorf that preserve these spaces and will ensure that the Waldorf will provide memorable experiences for generations to come. We look forward to sharing our plans publicly when they are complete.The spaces under review include the Park Ave foyer and colonnade, the West Lounge (a.k.a. “Peacock Alley”), the East Arcade, the Lexington Avenue stairs, assorted lobbies and vestibules, the Ballroom entrance hall, and the famous Grand Ballroom. The ballroom hosts many high-profile events, including the Al Smith dinner that serves as comedic relief each presidential election season as the two candidates take light-hearted jabs at each other. The decadent architectural details inside represent an early embrace of the Machine age, even if in a “superficial way,” as described Marianne Lamonaca, author of Grand Hotels of the Jazz Age, a 2005 book about New York’s remarkable hotels of the era. "This is one of the most distinctive interiors in the city," Commissioner Frederick Bland explained. "In Delirious New York, Rem Koolhaas writes a whole chapter on this extraordinary city within a city. I always encourage my students to visit this sequence of spaces. That is what make this so special to me. It is public, or nearly public. To walk on that main axis, entering from Park Avenue, and ending up down a level on Lexington is wonderful. It is probably my favorite interior in all of New York. The fact that it is not landmarked already is really horrifying. This is a delightful day for me."