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Back to the future for 1359 B'way.

When architects at Fifield Piaker Elman began developing plans for a lobby overhaul at 1359 Broadway, a W&H property, they discovered the ruins of the original dramatic vaulted plaster lobby ceiling--approximately five feet above the current flat sheetrock ceiling.

What was once the crowning glory of a grand lobby had been concealed by a mundane 1970's era "renovation."

Recognizing the historical significance and aesthetic qualities of the original ceiling, which featured a barrel vault of plaster coffered panels with decorative rosettes, the architects and the landlord decided to restore the original design to the soon-to-be renovated lobby.

"Historically, plasterwork has been labor-intensive to create and repair," says David Piaker of Fifield Piaker Elman Architects. "In the period before the landmark preservation movement, it was common practice to 'modernize' historic elements by replacing them with newer, less labor intensive materials and finishes.

"Fortunately, we have an alternative today, with prefabricated fiberglass reinforced plaster and other products," he adds. "With today's technology, large portions of the vaulted ceiling can be recreated and produced in a shop off site, delivered and installed relatively quickly. In this way labor costs are minimized, and finish quality is maximized. Visually, the new materials are indistinguishable from the original plaster."

Fifield Piaker Elman is re-interpreting the original design by having the castings made of the original coffers, moldings, and rosettes. When the renovations are complete, the lobby will again feature a soaring vaulted ceiling in the classic style of the 1920s.

"'New' doesn't always equate with 'improved,'" says Michael Frantz, director of Newmark & Company Real Estate, the building's managing and leasing agent. "The renovated building will feature state-of-the art facilities and advanced technologies, but they will be integrated into a traditional and elegant package. We want the best of both worlds--this one and the one that existed a century ago."

The lobby renovations are the first phase of a $54 million capital improvement program at the building. Besides the restored ceiling, the new lobby will feature marble floors and walls, and an arched entrance with an exterior bronze canopy. Other building renovations will include new windows; new washrooms; a new HVAC system; upgraded electrical systems; newer, faster elevator operating systems; new elevator cabs; and refurbished public corridors.
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Title Annotation:Construction & Design; historic buildings
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Nov 24, 2004
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