Landmarks Commission Rejects Aby Rosen’s Alterations to Four Seasons Interior—Good Call


On Thursday, Landmarks Preservation Commission decided that the interior of the Four Seasons restaurant in Manhattan should not be altered, the New York Times reports.

The elegant establishment, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson, has long been a stomping ground for wealthy financiers and art world denizens since it opened in 1959. The plan, proposed by Aby J. Rosen, the owner of the Seagram building that houses the restaurant, includes removing a bronze and glass partition in the Grill Room. This proposal has drawn ire from a number of architects.

In 1989, the 52nd street and Park Avenue restaurant became the second restaurant interior to be granted landmark status from the commission (the first was Gage & Toller). Though the space itself shall remain untouched for now, the lease to the restaurant expires this summer.

Eighteen speakers at the hearing insisted the proposed alterations to the restaurant interior would undermine the original intent of the architects and the historical significance of the space. (Rosen was absent.)

“Where will it end?” architect Ricardo Scofidio, of Diller Scofidio & Renfro, asked. “I am extremely concerned that if the proposed changes are accepted, a precedent will be set, a precedent that will make it easy to permit further alterations in the future.”

Robert A.M Stern, the architect of New York’s 15 Central Park West, and Phyllis Lambert, who, with her father, Samuel Bronfman, planned the Seagram building in 1950s, also condemned Mr. Rosen’s plans.

“What is at stake here… [is] whether deception triumphs over transparency, and whether the wealth, power and influence of a building’s proprietors can trample both the fundamental integrity of an historic space…” Bronfman said in a statement, the New York Post reports.

In a telephone interview with the Times, Rosen said, “If something was designed in 1958 and it’s not functional in 2015, you ask for a change. I’m going to restore the Four Seasons back to its glory. I love the guys but their time has passed, and sometimes something great needs to go.”

This is not the first battle between Mr. Rosen and conservationists. In September last year, a 95-year-old, 19-by-20-foot Picasso tapestry was removed from the Seagram building, to the chagrin of the New York Landmarks Conservancy. It now hangs in the New York Historical Society (see Aby Rosen’s Giant Picasso Leaves the Seagram Building).

Four Seasons restaurant. Photo: via Wikipedia.

Four Seasons restaurant.
Photo: Wikipedia.

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