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LPC calendars the Ambassador Grill and Hotel Lobby

October 23, 2016

Some good news to report: On September 20, the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to calendar for designation the Ambassador Grill & Lounge and Hotel Lobby of the United Nations Plaza Hotel, now known as One UN New York. Calendaring is the first step in the designation process; the next step is the public hearing, which will take place on Tuesday November 22. Comments and testimony from the public are welcomed at hearings.

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.

In January, we reported troubling news that Millennium Hotels and Resorts, who currently manages the spaces, had closed the restaurant and were haphazardly removing sections of the metal paneled drop ceiling revealing sprinkler heads without proper building permits. The destructive work sparked a public campaign by a consortium of preservation groups to urge LPC to act before more damage was done. Since then, Millennium has completed renovations and reopened the restaurant. Members of the board of DOCOMOMO NY/Tri-State recently paid a visit to see the modifications. While the distinctive mylar ceiling has been covered with translucent panels, the integrity of KRJD’s design remains intact. Most of the changes are minor and appear to be reversible.

New York City currently has 117 interior Landmarks of which seven are Modern and four are restaurants.

LPC votes to calendar Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo’s Ambassador Grill and Lobby,” The Architect’s Newspaper: September 20, 2016

Above: post-renovation. Photos: John S. Arbuckle.
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.