Proposal would strip 60 Wall St of its unique Postmodern features

Author

Liz Waytkus & Michele Racioppi

Affiliation

Docomomo US staff

Tags

Threatened, Advocacy, New York, Postmodernism
Image details

Background 

60 Wall Street (formerly the J.P. Morgan Bank Building or Deutsche Bank Building) was completed in 1989 by Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo and Associates. This postmodern office tower design is bold in form and daring in its execution, borrowing many elements from classical architecture. The building boasts an atrium that is perhaps one of the most unique spaces in all of New York City. As described by Benjamin Kellogg in an article earlier this year, "the style of this interior alludes to Mughal design: it’s a winter garden with flowering octagonal columns supporting mirrored ceilings framed with white trelliswork, inducing a reflective kaleidoscopic effect that Roche has been known to utilize." The atrium is a "POPS," a privately-owned public space, and also has a subway entrance inside it. 

Update September 20, 2022

Today, in an exciting win for preservationists, a majority of commissioners of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) rejected a revised proposal for changes to the exterior base of the Kevin Roche-designed 60 Wall Street. We are pleased with the findings by the LPC that the proposal was not harmonious, that the current building is more harmonious, and that the process to review the exterior and interior needs to be completed. There is enough research, based on the Ambassador Grill & Lobby (also by Roche Dinkeloo) and the Philip Johnson-designed AT&T Building, to support exterior and interior landmark designation for 60 Wall. The building retains a high level of integrity and the design and materials are of exceptional quality.

Our efforts for this project are far from over. The decision today does not protect the building in any way and the commission did not agree to calendar either an exterior or interior landmarking request. 

Recent news coverage:

"60 Wall Street’s Lobby Is Weird and Ridiculous and Deserves to Be Saved," Curbed, September 19, 2022.

"The Fight to Save New York’s Extravagantly ’80s Subway Entrance," The New York Times, July 29, 2022.

"An Iconic Postmodern New York Lobby Is Slated for Destruction—Can It Be Saved?" Cultured, January 12, 2022.

Support our continued work to landmark this significant Postmodern site by making a donation today.

Update September 15, 2022

Earlier this week, Docomomo US received a response from the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to our request for evaluation of 60 Wall Street as an individual and interior landmark. You can read that letter here

 

It is critical to note the LPC letter states that the agency "has determined that the building and interior POPS merit further study within the context of Postmodern commercial architecture and interiors." 

 

At the same time, the LPC have agreed to discuss a revised proposal to alter the exterior of 60 Wall Street at a public meeting on Tuesday, September 20th. As this is a follow up to the public hearing in July, public meetings do not allow for public comment.

  

Docomomo US strongly believes that if 60 Wall Street merits additional study by the LPC, then the review of an application to alter the building should be secondary and the review of the landmark should be their main focus.

 

"The purpose of [the LPC is] safeguarding the buildings and places that represent New York City's cultural, social, economic, political, and architectural history". Our opinion is this purpose should take precedent over the review to alter the building.

 

How you can help.

Send an email to the LPC Chair, Sarah Carroll, to not take action on the proposed alteration until the agency has completed their work to study the merits of 60 Wall Street's interior and exterior as NYC landmarks. Encourage the LPC to approve both the exterior and interior landmark designations. 

 

You can read our 9/16/22 response letter to the LPC here.

Initial Threat

Deutsche Bank, who had been the tenant since 2001, announced in 2018 their plans to move out of the building by 2021. In May of 2021, one of the new owners, Paramount Group, announced a $250 million renovation to the building façade and lobby that is intented to begin this summer. The new design, by Kohn Pedersen Fox, would strip the building's base of Roche's chamfered double columns. Roche's columns are essential to the design and are ingeniously duplicated at the top of the building with the use of layers of ribbon windows to produce an illusion of bundled pilasters forming the corner offices. The proposal would also alter the atrium beyond recognition into a generic, could-be-anywhere-style lobby. 

 

In the development of 60 Wall Street, the final building received three FAR (floor area ratio) bonuses for the POPS, the exterior public space on Wall Street, and for the transfer of air rights from 55 Wall Street, the former National City Bank Building, a Greek Revival style exchange building designed by Isaiah Rogers and built in 1842, with a 1907 addition by McKim, Mead and White. In addition to the creation of a facade easement for 55 Wall, the air rights transfer required any new development must be in "harmonious architectural relationship" with the landmarked 55 Wall. The current proposal has triggered a review by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission on whether the plan to alter the exterior at the base fulfills the requirement to be in harmonious relationship with its landmarked neighbor. 

 

July 2022 Update

On June 28th, the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission heard testimony for the proposed alterations to 60 Wall Street. You can watch the hearing here. The Landmarks Preservation Commission did not approve the proposal and there was general consensus the proposal was "not harmonious enough" with 55 Wall. Chair Carroll noted during the hearing that Docomomo US had sent in Requests for Evaluation (RFEs) for the interior and exterior and asked Commissioners to reflect if designation was something they would consider. Many expressed concern over the current design and an openness to a designation. Docomomo US would like to thank all of those who submitted testimony and assisted us with this issue including: Historic Districts Council, The New York Landmarks Conservancy, The Municipal Art Society of New York, Community Board 1 Manhattan, Thomas Collins, John Jurayj, Theodore Grunewald and Robert A.M. Stern. We will post updates as we receive them.


Exterior proposed changes:

Atrium and Lobby proposed changes:

How you can help

Docomomo US has submitted nominations to the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission for 60 Wall as an exterior and interior landmark.

Read the exterior request for evaluation here.

Read the interior request for evaluation here.

  • Send an email to the LPC Chair, Sarah Carroll, urging LPC to approve both the exterior and interior landmark designations.
  • Send an email to Dan Garodnick, Director of the Department of City Planning, urging them to support exterior and interior landmark designation.