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You Don’t Know What You Got Till It’s Gone

Barring a last-minute miracle, Kevin Roche’s imaginative, Postmodern Lobby at 60 Wall Street is a goner—as the New York Times reports.

It’s sad, but not surprising, that commercial real estate developers think erasing this unique, columned space and putting up a “living wall” will start a stampede of companies and workers back to the building.

It’s sad, but not surprising, that the City Planning Commission agreed to the proposed changes in what is a POPS…Privately Owned Public Space under the Commission’s jurisdiction.

It’s sad, and totally surprising, that the Landmarks Preservation Commission stood down and is letting this happen. The LPC modified proposed exterior changes to the building last year saying they wanted to retain the integrity of the original design. The Conservancy argued against those proposed changes, calling the building a Postmodern gem. So did a host of colleague groups, who also argued for the designation of the lobby.

The LPC outlined its reasoning in a letter to Council Member Christopher Marte, who supported the interior designation. The LPC stated that POPS have “significant public benefits” and “require flexibility to meet future needs.” They said LPC “needs to fully understand the significance of the era.” And, while LPC said the lobby merited further study, it didn’t fit within the agency’s current priorities.

Noted architect Robert A.M. Stern championed 60 Wall and its lobby. Stern, and award-winning architecture critic Paul Goldberger, powerfully rebutted LPC’s reasoning in a letter to the LPC Chair.

The two noted that preservation has “well-established economic benefits of its own” and would not have prevented appropriate changes to the lobby. Postmodern architecture has been debated “for a generation,” they added. And having its own priorities, “should not prevent the Commission from pivoting to designate important architecture that is threatened.”

Stern and Goldberger concluded that LPC “could have and should have taken this designation as an opportunity to show that the goals of preservation need not conflict with the goals of CPC regarding POPS, and that LPC and CPC can partner to keep a critical work of twentieth-century architecture vibrant and in active use. The loss of Kevin Roche’s imaginative design diminishes the City.”

We agree.

Peg Breen, President
The New York Landmarks Conservancy

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