Disco-Era Hotel Interior Enters Designation Process

United Nations Hotel

United Nations Hotel. Image Credit: LPC

Early Postmodern bar and lobby a rare intact example of interior architecture and design from the late 1970s and early 1980s. On September 20 2016, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to add first floor interiors on the United Nations Hotel at 1 United Nations Plaza to its calendar, formally commencing the designation process. The interiors under consideration are the hotel’s lobby and the public areas of the Ambassador Grill. The lobby was completed in 1983, and the grill in 1976. Both were designed by the firm of Kevin Roche Dinkeloo Associates for the United Nations Development Corporation.

Landmarks Research Department staff member Matt Postal stated that the interiors were “significant examples of Late- and Post-Modern design.” The U-shaped grill has mirrored walls marble floors, and a vaulted faux skylight, illuminated by Mylar panels. A stepped octagonal glass dome distinguishes the lobby, with a ramp flanked by free-standing columns. Postal identified the dome and columns as “classicizing features” influenced by Postmodern ideas. At the time of their completion, the interiors were lauded by prominent architecture critics.

Other notable works by Roche-Dinkeloo include the individually landmarked Ford Foundation and the Oakland Museum of Art.

Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan said the interiors were eminently worthy of consideration, and “really can be a very exciting designation.” She noted that interiors of this nature are easily altered and the relatively pristine character of the hotel interiors was “a rarity.” Srinivasan said the rooms under consideration, while “markedly different” from most of the City’s other interior landmarks, represented a “period of transition” in architecture and the “values of its time.” Commissioner Fred Bland expressed his astonishment that the property owners were supportive of designation, given that interiors of this nature are frequently updated, and called their endorsement “simply extraordinary.

Chair Srinivasan set October 25th as the hearing date for public testimony on the potential landmark.

LPC: United Nations Hotel, First Floor Interior, 1 and 2 United Nations Plaza, Manhattan (LP2588) (Sept. 20, 2016).

By: Jesse Denno (Jesse is a full-time staff writer at the Center for NYC Law).

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