Technical Assistance

Edgar J Kaufmann Conference Center

Edgar J Kaufmann Conference Center
Edgar J Kaufmann Conference Center
The Alvar Aalto Room at the Kaufman Center
Edgar J Kaufmann Conference Center
Edgar J Kaufmann Conference Center
The Alvar Aalto Room at the Kaufman Center

From Floor to Ceiling, Original Details Restored in “Aalto Room”

The Kaufmann Conference Center, in the Institute of International Education at 809 United Nations Plaza, was designed by Alvar Aalto and completed in 1964. The Kaufman Center is one of only four surviving works in America by Aalto. It was commissioned by Edgar Kaufmann Jr., whose family owned the Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece Fallingwater. During the design process, Aalto closely collaborated with his wife, the architect Alissa Aalto, who personally selected the room’s textiles.

The Conservancy became involved with this remarkable space in 2002, when TSC was engaged as a preservation consultant for the first phase of the center’s restoration. This phase included the woodwork, ceiling, and new draperies custom-woven to match Alissa Aalto’s specifications.

Further restoration, which continues today, entails the re-creation of the original carpeting. Alissa Aalto gave specific instructions regarding the carpet, and although descriptions survive in archived correspondence, samples do not. Laura Kamras, the deputy consul general from the Finnish Consulate, provided valuable research assistance by contacting the Alvar Aalto Archives in Helsinki. The archive supplied several sharp historic images of the rooms, along with copies of floorplans indicating the carpet’s layout.

The carpet was produced in 1964 by Spinning Wheel Rugs, in North Carolina, which was recently acquired by Mountain Rugs, also of North Carolina. TSC staff members have been working with Judy Morgan of Mountain Rugs. Using the drapery fabric and photos, Ms. Morgan produced several rug samples.

Once installed, the reproduced carpet will help to present once again the Aaltos’ original intent for this unique space.