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Rafael Viñoly will revamp former National Academy of Design building into art gallery

The starchitect is leading a team to restore the landmarked building’s facade and turn it into a gallery

Courtesy of Rafael Viñoly Architects

One of the Upper East Side buildings that was once home to the National Academy of Design will soon get a starchitect-designed revamp. At a hearing this week, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to approve a Rafael Viñoly-designed plan to renovate one of the museum’s former holdings, with some modifications.

Four years ago, the National Academy announced that it would sell its Museum Mile buildings, citing the steep cost to maintain the structures. The last of the properties, 3 East 89th Street (which sits within the expanded Carnegie Hill Historic District), sold last June to the art gallery Salon 94 to the tune of $22.3 million, city records show.

The owner of the gallery, Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, hired Viñoly to restore the landmarked building’s facade, replace windows and doors, enlarge some areas of the structure, and add two stories to the roof area of the building. Greenberg Rohatyn also proposed two additions to the roof area, to convert the last story into an artist’s residence and studio, and the floor below, the fifth story, into an art library and research center. The plan also calls for the art gallery to occupy the first three floors.

A diagram of the proposed changes to the building.
Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC)

The LPC’s approval is contingent on removing one floor from the proposed rooftop addition because of its size and bulk. Viñoly, who attended the hearing, spoke about the gallery owner’s intent in adding an artists’ residence at the top of the building.

“What [Greenberg Rohatyn] has supported for many years … is the idea that art is not just the object itself but a process and that in the process the presence of the artist-making,” Viñoly said. He added that that part of the project is fundamental to the owner’s vision and programming of the gallery.

During the hearing, the Historic Districts Council (HDC) spoke in favor of the restoration aspect of the project, while citing reservations regarding an awning at the main entry door, which they said is “inconsistent with the otherwise perfectly accurate historic façade restoration.” HDC also asked the LPC to consider neighbors’s concerns regarding the proposed rooftop, which could potentially block the staircase and rotunda at 1083 Fifth Avenue, the adjacent building, which was also part of the National Academy.

The neo-Renaissance structure was designed by Ogden Codman and built between 1913 and 1915 with an extension to the neighboring 1083 Fifth Avenue. In 1941, the buildings were donated to the National Academy of Design, and in 1959, 5 East 89th Street was also built as an addition to the structures for the institution. The buildings all sold separately in recent years.