Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of New York Landmarks Preservation Law, the New York School of Interior Design (NYSID) announced its spring gallery exhibition, Rescued, Restored, Reimagined: New York’s Landmark Interiors (March 6 to April 24). Curated by award-winning architect Hugh Hardy, interior designer Kitty Hawks, Landmark West President Kate Wood and design historian and NYSID design faculty member Judith Gura, the exhibition provides a look at iconic New York interiors, while engaging the public and, perhaps, inspiring them to support the landmarking efforts.
From left: Co-curators Kate Wood, Hugh Hardy, Kitty Hawks, Judith Gura and NYSID president David Sprouls.
The exhibition also strives to draw attention to the fact that, despite there being over 1,300 individual landmark-designated structures throughout New York City, only 117 interiors are protected with landmark status. The exhibition takes viewers through the complicated past of building preservation and restoration, with projects divided into four major categories: Rescued, Restored, Reimagined and Future. It also includes a timeline of pivotal moments in landmark designation history such as the 1978 rescue of Radio City Music Hall and the subsequent 1999 restoration.
Ford Foundation, left. New Amsterdam Theatre, right.
According to Hardy and Gura, change is the greatest threat to interiors, yet the nature of interiors is that they have to change to survive. One of the reasons that building interiors are stripped and lost is because it is not economically feasible to keep purpose-built buildings open and maintained. One example that Hardy and Gura highlighted was how ATMs and online banking have supplanted the need for the original bank buildings and vaults, which puts certain buildings at risk.
Hardy and Gura also pointed out that landmark legislation was too late to save the original Penn Station, and also the Gilded Age mansions on Fifth Avenue, such as the Brokaw mansions. Modern New Yorkers would probably be surprised to know that many iconic interiors may yet suffer the same fate. Which famous interiors are currently not protected? Lincoln Center, for one, plus the New York Public Library’s Rose Reading Room and Carnegie Hall.
Marine Air Terminal, La Guardia Airport, Queens.
WIlliamsburgh Savings Bank, One Hanson Place, Brooklyn.
The legislation for landmark designation and preservation allows “appropriate changes,” but also only protects that which is part of the building. Therefore, while built-in furniture would remain protected, many spaces that are iconic because of their furniture and interior design do not fall under the purview of the protective legislation. In the words of NYSID President David Sprouts, this exhibition strives to “turn this notion on its head by focusing on the important role that interiors play in our lives as well as the incredible design that exists inside buildings all over our city.”
Surrogate's Court (Hall of Records). Photos courtesy of NYSID.
Not only does the exhibition feature photography by Larry Lederman and archival images, it contains an interactive element. Participants will be asked to join the conversation about determining what would constitute new “landmarks,” and how to protect modern interiors while also discussing what the challenges of changing use are. Visitors will also be able to nominate buildings and interiors they feel should be priorities for future landmark designation.
The exhibition will run from March 6 to April 24 at the NYSID Gallery, and can also be viewed online. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is free.