Heard but not designated

Alvar Alto rooms at Kaufmann Conference Center

Dr. Wayt House Address: 809 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017
Kaufmann Conference Center
A New York conference room On the 12th floor of 809 United Nations Plaza in New York City, home of the Institute of International Education (IIE),

Architect: Alvar Aalto

Built: 1965

LPC Action: LPC held a hearing for the Alvar Aalto rooms in 2001
The issues surrounding the designation of the Alvar Aalto rooms are more complex than pure aesthetics. The LPC claims, only building interiors that are “customarily open or accessible to the public” can be designated interior landmarks. This is did not seem an issue since up until recently the conference center, comprising meeting rooms, a lecture hall, and elevator lobby, were available to the public as rental space for functions and events. Faced with a shortage of space though, the IIE closed its doors and has been using the meeting rooms as “temporary office space,” said Derrick Wilson, the IIE’s telecommunications manager. There has also been a security issue. The building is located across the street from the United Nations, and therefore limited access is granted into the building. The building also houses the UN’s missions of the governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, creating even more security restrictions.

HDC Response: Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council (HDC), agrees and sees the closing of the space as a pushback against landmark designation. “By fighting landmarks designation, it makes one very concerned about the space,” said Bankoff.

This facility is one of only four Aalto-designed projects in the United States and the only one in New York The center was commissioned by architecture professor Edgar J. Kaufmann for the Institute of International Education. The room is 4,500- square-foot. The architectural detailing include gently undulating ceiling and walls, an abstract forest-like sculpture of bent birch wood, and blue porcelain tiles. This Aalto interior embodies many of the architect’s most-admired design elements. The original Aalto-designed lighting fixtures and furniture, including black leather and birch chairs and a rolling bar, are still intact.

To Support Contact: Council Member Daniel R. Garodnick

For More Info:
Institute of International Education, Edgar J. Kaufmann Confernece Center

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