Docomomo US has recently learned Kevin Roche’s distinctive and beloved late-modern interiors for the UN Plaza Ambassador Grill and Lounge, and Hotel Lobby are in the processing of being closed by its operators and now pending demolition. Located today in what is called ONE UN New York Hotel, the spaces are remarkably intact and highly acclaimed examples of New York City Late Modernism. In an effort to preserve these spaces, Docomomo US filed a Request for Evaluation (RFE) last week to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to designate the UN Plaza Ambassador Grill and Lounge, and Hotel Lobby a New York City Interior Landmark.
The UN Plaza Ambassador Grill and Lounge, and Hotel Lobby were designed by the Pritzker Prize winning architect Kevin Roche and his partner John Dinkeloo (Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo & Associates). Conceived as one project for the United Nations Development Corporation in 1970, the buildings and their interior spaces were completed in phases with the United Nations Plaza Hotel and Office Building completed in 1975 and Two United Nations Plaza built and completed in 1983.
Roche’s dazzling use of mirror, inset lighting fixtures, rich color palette, beehive-like octagon glass atriums, prismatic lobby ceiling, geometric chamfered colonnades, and a brilliant trompe l’oeil faux-skylight offer, in the words of The New York Times architectural critic Paul Goldberger, the “most sensuous piece of modern design in a public place in New York since the Four Seasons was finished in 1958”. The UN Plaza Ambassador Grill and Lounge, and Hotel Lobby maintain their distinctive glittering-mirror design elements and are the designs of a master in his prime showcasing inventive, humanistic and technologically sophisticated design solutions.
Late last week, Docomomo US learned Millennium Hotels and Resorts who currently manage the spaces have begun exploratory work inside the Ambassador Grill and haphazardly removed sections of the metal paneled drop ceiling revealing sprinkler heads. This alarming work is being performed without the necessary New York City Department of Buildings permits and in a poorly executed manner that threatens irreplaceable historic fabric.
While our Request For Evaluation at the LPC is pending, the exploratory work and developments in the Grill make this request even more urgent and require swift action by the LPC to hold an emergency hearing and designate these spaces as a New York City Interior Landmark.
As Docomomo US continues to monitor and advocate for these significant spaces, we are asking Docomomo US members, chapters, partner organizations and supporters to join our coalition in support of the UN Plaza Ambassador Grill and Lounge, and Hotel Lobby. Letters of support requesting an expedited Interior Designation hearing and the need to halt unpermitted work should be sent to Meenakshi Srinivasan, Chair of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission this week.
Letters can be sent to:
The Honorable Meenakshi Srinivasan, Chair
The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission
One Center Street, 9th Floor North
New York, NY 10007
Docomomo US would like to acknowledge Daniel Paul, a Los Angeles-based architectural historian and Docomomo US/SoCal founding member, and architect Kyle Johnson of the Docomomo US NY/Tristate chapter and Guest Curator of the “Kevin Roche: Architecture as Environment” exhibition (presented at the Museum of the City of New York, 2011-12). for their expertise and assistance in drafting the statement of significance document. Special thank you to landmarks advocate Theodore Grunewald for his ongoing efforts and passion for the UN Plaza Ambassador Grill and Lounge, and Hotel Lobby.
To join our coalition of supporters, please contact us info(at)docomomo-us.org.
By Ada Louise Huxtable
October 03, 1976
The New York Times Magazine, Page 202
By Daniel Paul photos: Adrian Gaut
No. 19, Fall Winter 2015/16