Modernist Treasures From Iconic Four Seasons Restaurant Headed for Auction

June 15, 2016

The Four Seasons: Photo via Le Travelist

News of the iconic restaurant’s impending demise surfaced last summer, as 6sqft previously reported, when Seagram Building owner Aby Rosen did not renew the lease for what has been seen as the quintessential Midtown “power lunch” spot for the last decades of the 20th century since it opened in 1959. The restaurant’s interiors feature designs by Pritzker Prize-winner Philip Johnson, furniture, tableware and other items by Seagram Building designer Mies Van der Rohe, Hans J. Wegner and others and custom-made Knoll furniture.

Those items will be included in the 500 lots headed for auction on July 26. Dezeen highlights critics’ frustration at what Aaron Betsky, leading US architecture critic and dean of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture rues as the dispersal of  “one of the rarest phenomena in Modernism: a place where the architecture, the furniture, the table settings, the service, the food, and even the clientele was of a piece.”

Four Seasons renovation, Annabelle Selldorf, Seagram Building, NYC interior landarks
Rendering of the proposed renovation presented to the LPC, via Selldorf Architects

Developer Rosen of RFR had circulated redesign plans for the Midtown dining establishment, created by starchitect Annabelle Selldorf. The plans were roundly rejected by the restaurant’s owners, preservationists and many in the architecture community including Robert A.M. Stern, who called the changes “ill-advised” for “one of the great rooms in New York, and one of the few great modernist rooms.” The rooms’ interiors are landmarked, and though the Landmarks Preservation Commission roundly rejected the update plans, the restaurant itself, whose lease is not tied to the building, will be relocating. Though restaurant owners Alex von Bidder and Julian Niccolini will be selling the furniture, tableware and other items custom-designed for the restaurant, fixtures and fittings like the iconic bar and wall panelling will remain as per LPC dictates.

Four Seasons restaurant, Philip Johnson, Seagram Building

Auction house Wright will hold the sale on July 26, 2016 at the restaurant located in the Seagram Building at 375 Park Avenue. In addition to those mentioned above, items on offer will include rare tableware and cookware by American industrial designer L Garth Huxtable and his partner, architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable, chairs and tables from Philip Johnson and bronze Tulip tables by Eero Saarinen.

Four Seasons restaurant, Philip Johnson, Seagram Building

As for the space itself, of-the-moment restaurateurs Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi, and Jeff Zalaznick (of the Major Food Group and trendy restaurants like Parm and Dirty French) have signed on to take over and partner with Rosen, who will increase the rent to $3 million a year. Since the space is landmarked, many of the original design and architectural elements will have to remain, though they will, of course, be part of the new restaurant.

Richard Lippold, Four Seasons restaurant, Seagram Building
Image: Absolute Travel

seagram building
The Seagram Building

Architect Phyllis Lambert, whose father, Joseph E. Seagram & Sons founder Samuel Bronfman hired van der Rohe and Johnson to design the building, wrote an open letter to Rosen imploring him to keep the interiors intact “to maintain the authenticity of two of the world’s greatest rooms.” Architecture critic and passionate modernist Alexandra Lange calls the piecemeal preservation, “interior facadism, and a perversion of the idea of a landmark interior.” “The Four Seasons was part of a whole range of iconic architect-designed restaurants of the 1960s and 1970s that have now disappeared,” Lange told Dezeen, including Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen’s 1966 Ground Floor restaurant in the CBS Building–designed to compete with the Four Seasons–which was taken over by China Grill in 1987.

[Via Dezeen]


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