TYPE: Office, Retail and Commercial
Client: 303 5th Ave Inc.
303 5th Avenue
This project renovated the lobby and lower façade of a 20-story 5th Avenue office building built in 1909. The original headquarters for FAO Schwarz, this building had many extraordinary design features including a decorative plaster ceiling and cast iron façade. In the 1950s, most of these decorative features were removed, hidden, or destroyed in line with the modernist thinking of the time.
The clients, whose family has owned this building for almost 80 years, sought to renovate and restore the lobby and façade in a manner that would respect the building’s historical features. They wanted to make the small lobby feel larger while highlighting the historic details with a more modern sensibility so as to attract more high-quality tenants.
DESIGN PROCESS & INTENT
Soluri Architecture was selected for this project after winning a design competition organized by the building’s owners against four established NYC firms. This victory arose from our ability to understand the client’s needs, analyze/understand the existing conditions and propose solutions that would create the desired balance between historical and contemporary elements.
Our winning design concept was simple: restore the plaster ceiling to its former glory, but use brighter, more contemporary colors and lighting to make the lobby feel larger; enlarge the main entry to install a modern double-height frameless glass door system that would allow the ceiling to be visible from the street; replace the retail storefronts and cast iron facade to match the original configuration; and design a new limestone entry whose more traditional design could cohesively merge with the modern glazing to replace the original entry had been destroyed in the 1950s.
Our design process included historical research at the municipal archives to uncover the original drawings and extensive probes to determine what had been covered up and/or destroyed in the 1950s. This process allowed us to develop the strategies and designs for this project, while determining the best way to replace portions of the cast iron façade, restore the lobby’s original decorative plaster ceiling, and design the new limestone entry.
The design and documentation phase of the project was completed quickly to meet the aggressive schedule, with drawings issued for bidding four months after winning the competition. The completed project features a spacious, open design which gracefully incorporates the building’s unique historical details. Much care and attention was placed on sourcing quality marble for the interior, finding the exact color palette for the interior, and creating the combination of custom designed chandeliers and cove lighting.
Our new limestone entryway was custom-built and hand-carved by master stonemasons. Because the original entryway had been destroyed in the 1950s and its original design was not well-documented, we designed this new entryway from scratch, based on research of historical precedents that was merged with a contemporary sensibility. The new entry and storefront use the historical architectural language of the period, but with a modern frameless glass doorway and vestibule to showcase the stunning plaster ceiling and marble within.
The project has received numerous mentions in local and international press, and has met the client’s goal of filling the building with high-quality tenants.