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Alarm sounded for rare Late Modern interiors by Kevin Roche

January 20, 2016

Word recently leaked that destructive probing is happening in the Ambassador Grill & Lounge and Hotel Lobby, located in the UN Plaza Hotel (now ONE UN New York). Both interior spaces, completed 1975 and 1983, respectively, are considered exceptional examples of Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo & Associates’ Late Modern design approach. For the Ambassador Grill & Lounge, Roche’s strategic use of mirror, pattern, and lighting helps transform a low-height, basement level space into what architecture critic Paul Goldberger hailed at the time as the “most sensuous piece of modern design in a public place in New York since the Four Seasons was finished in 1958.” In a similar vein, the Hotel Lobby, expanded with the addition of a second tower, is a sensual echo of the architectural language of the exterior of the two 39-story towers—also designed by Roche and constructed in two phases (1975 and 1983). These interiors are also among few intact examples of the 1970s Modern style left in the city.

Late last week it was learned that Millennium Hotels and Resorts, who currently manages the spaces, has haphazardly removed sections of the metal paneled drop ceiling revealing sprinkler heads. This work is being performed without the required building permits and in a poorly executed manner that threatens irreplaceable historic fabric. Docomomo US, with assistance from DOCOMOMO NY/Tri-State board member Kyle Johnson and others, has submitted a “Request for Evaluation” to the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission along with an urgent call for the agency to hold an emergency hearing and designate these spaces as a New York City Interior Landmark.

Additional support is needed. Letters of support requesting an expedited Interior Designation hearing and the need to halt un-permitted 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

via LPC’s online message form (no attachments accepted, message must be 150 words or less)

via email: (no word limit)

More information:

Docomomo US, “Kevin Roche’s UN Plaza Ambassador Grill and Lobby Closed, Pending Demolition” (January 18, 2016)

Alexandra Lange via Curbed, “Imminent Demolition Feared for United Nations Plaza Hotel’s Iconic Postmodern Interior

Documentation of Significance with photos: “The United Nations Plaza Ambassador Grill and Lounge, and Hotel Lobby – Interior designation,” prepared by Docomomo US for NYC LPC (PDF)

Kyle Johnson, “Two Distinctive Modern Interiors May Soon Disappear From the Midtown Manhattan Cityscape,” DOCOMOMO NY/Tri-State Newsletter 2012, no. 2 



Top image: Ambassador Grill in a recent but undated photo (courtesy Metropolis Magazine). Bottom images were taken in 1985 by Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo & Associates: the Lounge, UN Plaza Hotel atrium ceiling, and hotel reception.