Rockefeller Center’s public plaza could get a major revamp

Renderings:
Gabellini Sheppard Associates/Landmarks Preservation Commission
(LPC)

Under a new proposal, the complex’s center would get new
stairs and elevators to improve visitor circulation

Rockefeller Center, one of New York City’s most iconic
landmarks, may get a major facelift.

Tishman Speyer, the complex’s owner, has proposed several
changes as part of
a plan
conceived by Gabellini Sheppard Associates, which was
presented during a Landmarks Preservation Commission hearing this
week. The proposal calls for fixes to the
channel gardens
(near the Fifth Avenue entrance, in between the
shops), the
sunken plaza
(its stair, storefronts, and landscape, among
other things), the north and south garden stairs, and the
Rockefeller Plaza street bed, all in the name of improving
circulation throughout the complex and enhancing its public
areas.

Changes to the channel gardens would include adding reflective,
translucent glass blocks to its six pools, allowing light to pass
through and letting visitors see through to the concourse below.
The proposal also suggests relocating the “Credo” monument from
the sunken plaza stairs to the garden’s Fifth Avenue
entrance.

It also calls for reducing the size of the stone parapet in the
sunken plaza staircase and adding permanent bronze railings with
greenery, as well as removable ones that would be installed
temporarily during the summer months. That’s the way the stairs
were
set up
when the complex opened in the 1930s; the plaza served
as an entrance to shops before it was turned into a dining area and
the famed ice-skating rink.

The proposal also calls for moving the “Youth” and
“Maiden” statues from the top of the sunken plaza stairs to
either side of the Prometheus statue, where they were originally
located, as well as removing the elevators in the north and south
gardens and replacing them with new elevators made of glass and
bronze-painted metal. The glass could display digital images or
“media art.”

 Renderings
of the proposed area around the elevator.

But the proposed digital displays are the biggest concern for
some preservationists.

“The line between media art and advertising is subject to
interpretation,” Christabel Gough, of the Society for the
Architecture of the City, a historic preservation advocacy group,
said during the hearing. “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.”

In November, Manhattan’s Community Board 5 voted to approve
the application, but with caveats. In its resolution,
the board asked the designers to reconsider the glass side panels
proposed for the north and south gardens, which are “modern and
non-contextual with the landmark,” and the proposed “bulky”
elevators that block views of the terrace and include an
“intrusive overhanging canopy.”

At the hearing on Tuesday, the LPC didn’t make a final
decision on the changes. Sarah Carroll, the commission’s chair,
said there would be a future session to continue discussing the
plan but it is unclear when it will take place.

Source: FS – NYC Real Estate
Rockefeller Center’s public plaza could get a major revamp