Why Landmarks Said No to Aby Rosen’s Four Seasons Renovation

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Why Landmarks Said No to Aby Rosen’s Four Seasons Renovation

Holy moly! Aby Rosen, the owner of the Seagram Building, was about to despoil the pristine interior of The Four Seasons Restaurant when the Landmarks Preservation Commission yanked the sledgehammer from his fist. Or: Argh! Aby Rosen, hoping to nudge a venerated but tired restaurant back to life, asked to make a few design tweaks, but intransigent bureaucrats shackled him to the status quo.

Disputes over landmarks usually present themselves as a conflict of caricatures. Preservationists decry barbarian businessmen plundering the past. Those seeking to alter or demolish a venerable building dismiss objectors as fusty antiquarians willing to sacrifice prosperity and jobs for a bit of crumbling plaster. Unfortunately for simple narrative, the moral dichotomies of preservation are often bogged down in technical minutiae. The most important decisions are made in a swamp of ambiguity.

In the most recent battle, Rosen petitioned the Landmarks Preservation Commission to make several changes to The Four Seasons, the Seagram Building’s lobby-level restaurant designed by Philip Johnson in 1958 and accorded landmark status in 1989. Rosen wanted to change the carpeting, which the LPC allowed. He also wanted to remove a crackle-glass partition and make another walnut-paneled partition movable. The commission wisely said no. []