Anbang taps Skidmore, Owings & Merrill for Waldorf Astoria renovation

March 29, 2017

Proposed rendering of the Park Avenue foyer, via Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

On March 1st, the Waldorf Astoria closed its doors to the public so that its new owners, Chinese insurer Anbang (who just today backed out of an even larger project to redevelop the Kushner Companies’ 666 Fifth Avenue) can undertake a two- to three-year renovation to convert 1,413 hotel rooms into 840 renovated hotel rooms and 321 condos, as well as spiff up the public spaces. This last part was worrisome at first, but earlier this month, these iconic Art Deco interiors were designated an official city landmark, meaning Anbang will need to preserve them and receive approvals for any work from the LPC. Wasting no time, they’ve now released plans for both the interior and exterior renovations and announced that architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) and renowned interior designer Pierre Yves Rochon (PYR) will “protect [the] beloved spaces and restore original features of the Waldorf not seen for decades.”

The Lexington Avenue entrance

Anbang bought the Waldorf for a record $1.95B in 2015, and since that time has shown support for preserving the historic interiors, even agreeing to work with the LPC on the design before the spaces were landmarked.

Peacock Alley

For the past year, SOM has been “diving into architectural archives, researching photos and, in some cases, unearthing pieces stored for decades to plan a restoration of the landmark exteriors as well as the interior public spaces,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Their attention to detail goes as far as the exact color of the exterior bricks, known as “Waldorf gray.” They’ll also reinstate features that have been lost over the years, such as more slender frames around the exterior windows, maple burl wood panels on the main lobby walls, and “dramatic indirect lighting.” More involved plans call for moving the reception desks south of the lobby and opening up three coves in the Grand Ballroom ceiling.

SOM design partner Roger Duffy said, “Our design for the Waldorf Astoria New York reclaims the full potential of one of New York City’s most legendary buildings and opens a new chapter in the hotel’s celebrated history. The Waldorf Astoria has been an audacious civic icon since it first opened in 1931, and we are honored to be leading the effort to restore this Art Deco masterpiece, while turning it into a world-class destination for the 21st century.”

Anbang submitted the plans today for public review by the LPC; they’ll be presented to the Commission and the community board in the coming months.


Renderings via Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill

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