Technical Assistance

Conservancy Asks LPC to landmark 1 UN Plaza and its Threatened Public Interiors

Conservancy Asks LPC to landmark 1 UN Plaza and its Threatened Public Interiors
Conservancy Asks LPC to landmark 1 UN Plaza and its Threatened Public Interiors
-Ambassador Grill restaurant, 2015 (photo by Liz Waytkus)
Conservancy Asks LPC to landmark 1 UN Plaza and its Threatened Public Interiors
Conservancy Asks LPC to landmark 1 UN Plaza and its Threatened Public Interiors
-One UN Plaza, 1976 (photo by Ronald Livieri)
Conservancy Asks LPC to landmark 1 UN Plaza and its Threatened Public Interiors
Conservancy Asks LPC to landmark 1 UN Plaza and its Threatened Public Interiors
-Un Plaza Hotel Atrium, (photo by Ronald Livieri, Architect's Design Record Photos circa 1985)
Conservancy Asks LPC to landmark 1 UN Plaza and its Threatened Public Interiors
Conservancy Asks LPC to landmark 1 UN Plaza and its Threatened Public Interiors
-Ambassador Lounge and Bar, (photo by Ronald Livieri, Architect's Design Record Photos circa 1985)
Conservancy Asks LPC to landmark 1 UN Plaza and its Threatened Public Interiors
Conservancy Asks LPC to landmark 1 UN Plaza and its Threatened Public Interiors
-UN Plaza Hotel Lobby, (photo by Ronald Livieri, Architect's Design Record Photos circa 1985)
Conservancy Asks LPC to landmark 1 UN Plaza and its Threatened Public Interiors
Conservancy Asks LPC to landmark 1 UN Plaza and its Threatened Public Interiors
-Ambassador Grill, (photo by Ronald Livieri, Architect's Design Record Photos circa 1985)
Conservancy Asks LPC to landmark 1 UN Plaza and its Threatened Public Interiors
Conservancy Asks LPC to landmark 1 UN Plaza and its Threatened Public Interiors
-Ambassador Grill, (photo by Ronald Livieri, Architect's Design Record Photos circa 1985)
Conservancy Asks LPC to landmark 1 UN Plaza and its Threatened Public Interiors
Conservancy Asks LPC to landmark 1 UN Plaza and its Threatened Public Interiors
-Ambassador Grill, recent but undated (photo courtesy Metropolis Magazine)
Conservancy Asks LPC to landmark 1 UN Plaza and its Threatened Public Interiors
Conservancy Asks LPC to landmark 1 UN Plaza and its Threatened Public Interiors
-Ambassador Bar, (photo by Ronald Livieri, Architect's Design Record Photos circa 1985)
Conservancy Asks LPC to landmark 1 UN Plaza and its Threatened Public Interiors
Conservancy Asks LPC to landmark 1 UN Plaza and its Threatened Public Interiors
-One and Two UN Plaza, undated (photo by Ronald Livieri)

January 2016

Preservationists are rallying to save the lobby and Ambassador Grill restaurant in 1 United Nations Plaza. The Conservancy supports this, but has also asked the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to landmark the building as well as its public interiors—both designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect Kevin Roche.

The Conservancy staff visited the UN Plaza Hotel at the corner of First Avenue and East 44th Street to verify reports that the original interiors were being worked on and possibly threatened with destruction. The intricate interior design of the lobby and the Ambassador Grill restaurant were innovative for the time. Roche broke most of the rules of orthodox Modernism and was at the forefront of a trend that would later be dubbed Post-Modernism. When we got there we were relieved to find that the lobby spaces are intact, though several parts of the hotel are undergoing renovations including the Ambassador Grill restaurant, which unfortunately was off limits. Hotel staff told us that the restaurant had been closed since October and was scheduled to reopen no later than September, when the General Assembly next meets. The restaurant’s glass partitions were papered over making it impossible to look in.

The Conservancy urged the Landmarks Preservation Commission to arrange its own tour and to look at the building and its public interiors as potential landmarks. The design of the building and the public interiors were much celebrated upon their completion in 1976. Both the exterior and the interior were designed by Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo & Associates. Among their most ardent admirers at the time were_ New York Times_ architectural critics Ada Louise Huxtable and Paul Goldberger. Huxtable wrote in an October 3, 1976, column that the sophistication and elegance of the sleek facades make neighboring buildings “look like clods.” She went on to state that: “the interiors are rich, suave and beautiful. They break every rule of the hotel chain formula.”

Paul Goldberger wrote that same year that the new building was: “…the best glass curtain-wall structure that New York had seen in a decade…it ranks with Lever House, the Seagram Building and 140 Broadway as among the finest post war skyscrapers in the City”

The UN Plaza Hotel was financed and constructed by the United Nations Development Corporation, a state chartered agency empowered to build for the needs of the United Nations. Huxtable wrote that this explained why the design standard was higher than it would have been for a standard commercial hotel development. The building, known as 1 UN Plaza, houses 288 hotel rooms in the upper floors and UN offices in the lower floors.

The building and its public interiors are now 40 years old. This is usually the dangerous period for potential landmarks because they have not yet achieved widespread recognition. But the building and public interiors are important milestones in the architectural development of New York and deserve designation.