Preservation Issues

Conservancy Supports Ford Foundation Accessibility

-The Ford Foundation building, Interior

-The Ford Foundation building, at 320 East 43rd Street

Ford Foundation Testimony


The Conservancy testified in support of a proposal to alter the Ford Foundation’s landmarked interior at an April 19 Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) hearing. The proposal focused on modifications that will increase barrier-free access to the landscaped atrium and improve fire-safety throughout the building. The Commission voted to approve it.

The Ford Foundation building, at 320 East 43rd Street, is an interior and exterior landmark which features an extraordinary landscaped garden in an atrium that rises up 12 stories. Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo Associates designed the modern-style building, which was completed in 1967, and designated as soon as it met the LPC’s 30-year age criterion in 1997. Dan Kiley was the landscape architect. The LPC designation report quoted Kevin Roche who said that Ford commissioned this open space on valuable Manhattan real estate “for no reason other than to make a public gesture” and that “it was important ‘for the relationship of this community with the public.”

The proposed alterations will expand that “public gesture.” Necessary upgrades for fire-safety and other code requirements led Ford to undertake this project. They expanded the scope to include modifications such as installing new doors, widening doors in existing doorways, extending hardscape paths in the garden, and installing a lift, to provide better access for wheelchairs. The Conservancy found these measures to be appropriate.

One component of the proposal calls for removing a planter that was specifically noted in the designation report. We suggested that instead the planter be reduced or that new plantings be installed in the same location, to honor the intent of this feature. The Commission approved removal of the planter. The plan, which is set to start later this year, will also include replacing the existing plantings, which were not in keeping with the original design, and renovating offices throughout the building.