See the proposed revamp for Rockefeller Center

Posted On Wed, January 15, 2020 By

Posted On Wed, January 15, 2020 By In Architecture, Midtown, Urban Design

Renderings by Gabellini Sheppard Associates courtesy Tishman Speyer; via NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission

Tishman Speyer proposed a plan to revamp certain aspects of Rockefeller Center during a hearing at the Landmark Preservation Commission on Tuesday, as CityRealty reported. With Gabellini Sheppard Associates at the helm, the design proposal makes tweaks to the gardens and outdoor plaza spaces at the 22-acre site. The upgrades—which mostly seek to improve circulation—come as city officials have been discussing the permanent restriction of traffic around Rockefeller Center following the successful pedestrianization of the area during the recent holiday season.

Rockefeller Center, Tishman Speyer, Gabellini Sheppard Associates, Landmarks Preservation Commission

Rockefeller Center, Tishman Speyer, Gabellini Sheppard Associates, Landmarks Preservation Commission

Some of the changes put forth would be largely unnoticeable to street-level visitors. For instance, the plan would replace the glass blocks under the fountains of the Channel Gardens with clear silicone spacers to allow natural light into the concourse below. “The idea is not unlike the historic vault lights embedded in many of the sidewalks in Tribeca and Soho,” CityRealty noted.

Rockefeller Center, Tishman Speyer, Gabellini Sheppard Associates, Landmarks Preservation Commission

Rockefeller Center, Tishman Speyer, Gabellini Sheppard Associates, Landmarks Preservation Commission

Rockefeller Center, Tishman Speyer, Gabellini Sheppard Associates, Landmarks Preservation Commission

The proposal also seeks to relocate the “Credo” monument to John D. Rockefeller from its current location at the head of the sunken plaza staircase to the site’s Fifth Avenue entrance in order to “remove a pedestrian chokepoint.” The staircase would see additional changes in the form of a new design for the summer months which is reminiscent of the original 1930’s condition—a grand entrance to the shops below with room for visitors to sit. During the winter months when the plaza is converted to a skating rink, the stairs would look mostly as they do now. We don’t have details about how the transition would take place, but it appears to include a smaller version of the existing granite parapet topped with planters and additional removable railings.

Rockefeller Center, Tishman Speyer, Gabellini Sheppard Associates, Landmarks Preservation Commission

Other updates include illuminating the flagpoles, adding more greenery overall, moving the “Youth” and “Maiden” statues to either side of the “Prometheus” statue (their original location), and enlarging the sunken plaza-facing storefronts. As the New York Post reported last August, the existing concourse restaurants had their leases terminated and it remains to be seen what will replace them.

“The proposed changes are well thought out and demonstrate a clear connection with the plaza’s historic design, while simultaneously able to function in our current day,” the Historic Districts Council said in a statement.

Rockefeller Center, Tishman Speyer, Gabellini Sheppard Associates, Landmarks Preservation Commission

The plan would also replace the plaza’s bronze-caged elevators (which were installed in the mid-1980s) with glass ones that could double as an art display. So far this seems to be the main point of contention with the new plan. “The line between media art and advertising is subject to interpretation,” Christabel Gough of the Society for the Architecture of the City, said during the hearing, according to Curbed. “Let Times Square be Times Square, and let Rockefeller Center be Rockefeller Center. A billboard that can wiggle would be a huge distraction here, and just when the summer garden is being made so much nicer, it would strike a completely false note.”

Manhattan’s Community Board 5 approved the proposal with some modifications and the LPC is due to schedule a second session during which they will make a final decision on the changes.

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Renderings by Gabellini Sheppard Associates courtesy of Tishman Speyer; via NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission

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