Fans of postmodern architecture, rejoice: Today, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to landmark the lobby and the Ambassador Grill within the United Nations Plaza Hotel (now known as the One UN New York Hotel). The spaces, which were designed by Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo & Associates, will become New York City’s 118th interior landmark. In an email to Curbed, Roche said, “We are really very delighted with the outcome of the Landmarks decision regarding the UN Plaza hotel lobby interior.”
Advocates, including Curbed columnist Alexandra Lange, had been pushing for landmark designation since last January, when it became apparent that the hotel’s owners were interested in changing up the glitzy interiors. “We should not allow a repeat of what happened to Frank Lloyd Wright's Park Avenue Mercedes Benz showroom: demolition when no one's watching,” Lange wrote at the time.
Luckily, the LPC listened to those advocates, agreeing in the fall to calendar a vote, with a full hearing (with plenty of impassioned testimony from fans of the space, including Robert A.M. Stern) following in November. Today’s vote was something of a surprise, as it hadn’t appeared on the LPC’s calendar late last week, but it’s a pleasant one nonetheless.
After more than a year of advocacy efforts, Kevin Roche's Ambassador Grill & UN Plaza Hotel Lobby are NYC's 118th interior landmarks! pic.twitter.com/TL2ygf6Ld4— Docomomo US (@docomomo_us) January 17, 2017
The Ambassador Grill and the hotel’s lobby aren’t just the newest interior landmarks in terms of when they were designated—the two spaces, completed in 1975 and 1983, respectively, are also the newest in terms of when they were built. The disco-era rooms are quite stunning examples of postmodern architecture, covered in glittering mirrors, checked marble, and other of-the-era finishes.
“These interiors are spectacular, using mirror, pattern, and lighting to trick the eye into seeing palatial space, daylight, and high ceilings where there are actually none,” Lange wrote in her testimony for the LPC in November. “They are also among few intact examples of 1970s style left in the city.” The LPC’s designation, then, is a signal that more modern structures are now being considered worthy of preservation—not just the Beaux Arts or Gothic Revival structures that we’re used to thinking of as “landmarks.”
Alas, preservationists didn’t get everything they wanted: according to the Architects Newspaper, a small seating area that connects the Grill and the lobby was left out of the designation. But it’s a good day for preservationists nonetheless.