HDC@LPC – Designation Testimony for November 22, 2016

Statement of the Historic Districts Council

Designation Hearing

November 22, 2016

 

Item 1

LP – 2588

BOROUGH OF Manhattan

UNITED NATIONS HOTEL, FIRST FLOOR INTERIORS, 1 and 2 United Nations Plaza

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HDC is thrilled that the Landmarks Preservation Commission is considering Roche and Dinkeloo’s United Nations Hotel post-modern interiors for landmark designation. Interior landmarks are rare, much like this period of history’s representation among the protected spaces and structures in NYC. The main lobby’s cavernous, octagonal ceiling features graduated layers in a dark mass punctuated with tiny illuminations, almost like a night sky.

Exiting from this space, guests move through a verdant corridor and sitting area, where the floors, stairs and columns have a generous dark green marble application, which is reflected over and over by the space’s many mirrors. Collectively, along with green plantings, these elements work to produce an environment of openness and greenery, similar to that of a lushly planted atrium in Midtown Manhattan, which is, perhaps, a nod to the firm’s nearby 42nd Street Ford Foundation. This room is bisected by columns, with a sitting area on one side and a ramp on the other.

HDC urges Commissioners to reconsider the cut out of the sitting area portion of the lobby. The circulation of the lobby naturally leads to this mirrored oasis, which offers a sunken vantage point from which to view and enjoy the space. The visitor is naturally drawn to it for the opportunity to ponder the intricate geometries of the mirrored ceiling and walls. The ramp provides a different experience of the space since it is designed to move you through it, rather than allow you to exist for a moment within it. Both are valid and should be protected equally. Furthermore, the sitting area retains all of the same special features as the ramp, such as decorative columns, mirrored panels and ceilings. This is because they exist in the same, well-designed room. To divorce one from the other would be tantamount to designating a half of the same space.

The Grill area replaces greenery with a classic and clean black and white palette; its geometric floors are mirrored in the light fixtures on the ceilings. HDC hopes that with the Commission’s oversight, the space’s original light features might be returned to their intended transparency and reflectivity. Despite this alteration, the Grill retains a distinct character not found elsewhere in New York. Finally, HDC questions why the connector hallway between the lobby and the Grill is not included in the designation boundaries. This hallway speaks the same, very particular, language as these two great spaces, and if modified, would do a great disservice to their design continuity. Why not reserve the right to preside over any proposed amendment to the entire ensemble, which includes the hallway, into the future?

 

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