On Monday, New York City had 117 interior landmarks. Now, it has 118. On Tuesday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to designate portions of the hotel now known as ONE UN New York, at 1 and 2 United Nations Plaza, as interior landmarks.
Those spaces cover the Ambassador Grill and the lobby. Both were designed by Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates, better known simply as Roche-Dinkeloo, or KRJDA. The grill’s interior was built between 1969 and 1976 and the lobby was built between 1979 and 1983. LPC staff said this was a time when few new hotels were being built in New York City, a stark contrast to today.
The complex was built by the United Nations Development Corporation. It still houses permanent missions to the U.N. The hotel is now part of the Millennium Hotels chain.
“These nearly intact lavish interiors are a distinctive example of public spaces in the 1970s and 1980s,” said the commission.The grill has a faux skylight made of Mylar, though many of those panels have been covered. Fortunately, they can be removed and the room can be restored. The lobby features marble columns as well as a glassy ceiling.
LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan said this designation includes “two critical aspects of the commission’s work,” including finding interiors that reflect “holistic design” and making sure they fall within the criteria for designation.
Indeed, interior designations are trickier than individual, or exterior, ones. To be eligible for designation as an individual landmark, there really is only one legal criteria – the structure has to be 30 years old. However, to eligible for designation as an interior landmark, the space has to first be of that age, but also have been publicly accessible.
“These unique spaces represent some of the best and most well preserved interiors in the style and aesthetic of the 1970s and 80s, and we’re delighted to ensure their protection,” Srinivasan added in a statement. “As the architecture of this period comes of age, the Commission is proud to designate this site, which not only contains its first Post-Modern interior, but is also the youngest New York City Interior Landmark.”
At the public hearing on this matter, held on November 22, 2016, 15 people delivered testimony, all in support of designation. That included representatives of international Modernist preservation group DOCOMOMO and of KRJDA. Some preservationists even called for more of the interior to be designated.
While these spaces are now interior landmarks, the 1 and 2 United Nations complex is not an individual landmark. That means, as long as the designated spaces are unaffected, any modification to the surrounding structure can go forward without LPC approval.