Never Forget pix
With the New York Academy of Sciences, Hugh Hardy returns to the World Trade Center, where he once renovated Windows on the World
Joseph Giovannini -- Interior Design, 3/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates's 1996 renovation of New York's Windows on the World main dining room included installing a fabric ceiling. Photography: Christopher Little.
A decade later, H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture founding principal Hugh Hardy returned to the World Trade Center to design the New York Academy of Sciences.
At NYAS, reception serves as a break-out area.
The hallway is lined with 2x4's digitally printed vinyl wall covering.
Custom leather-upholstered chairs circle an ash Hans Wegner table.
Behind the anigré-veneered reception desk, an MDF screen maps out downtown New York and pinpoints the academy's previous locations, including its 1817 founding place.
A hallway features 2x4's anamorphic version of Galilée Devant le Saint Office au Vatican, an 1847 oil painting by Joseph Nicolas Robert-Fleury that's now at the Musée du Louvre in Paris.
Hardy installed a cluster of mirrored crystals in a corner of one of the dining rooms at Windows on the World. Photography: Christopher Little.
The NYAS is situated on the 40th floor of the LEED Gold–certified 7 World Trade Center by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill partner David Childs. Photography: Andreas Keller/Artur.
The 300-seat auditorium's custom wool broadloom represents DNA spirals.
All workstation panels are wrapped in recycled polyester. Task chairs made from recycled components are 70 percent recyclable; for the nylon carpet tile, that figure rises to 100 percent.
In an office, Arne Jacobsen chairs ring an Isamu Noguchi table.
The view from the auditorium embraces City Hall and the Woolworth Building.
EXCEPT WHERE NOTED, PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARK LA ROSA
It was like a gentleman's club out of central casting. Founded in 1817, the New York Academy of Sciences later moved uptown to the Woolworth mansion, a 1911 building graced with carved mahogany paneling, leaded glass windows, and a marble facade worthy of Georgian London. The furnishings, shabby-genteel in a professorial way, conjured up visions of science discussed fireside, over brandy snifters and puffing pipes, by men wearing tweeds patched at the elbows. But the reality was that the mansion's small rooms balkanized the staff, limited outreach, hindered interchange about science, technology, and medicine, and contributed to a declining number of members—who have included no lesser lights than Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Graham Bell, and Albert Einstein.
Sometimes, gentrification is a good thing. A Vesuvian eruption in residential real-estate prices meant that the nonprofit could sell its five-story mansion, increasing the endowment. Then, NYAS president Ellis Rubinstein convinced his board that the extra funds could help the august organization enlist design itself to acquire a headquarters that would recharge and reposition the academy in a more active and activist role. Rubinstein's plan was rendered even more feasible by the coincidence that 7 World Trade Center—the first new structure at ground zero—was coming on line, gapingly empty. NYAS and Silverstein Properties struck a deal to make the academy the first lessee, setting a cultural standard.
For NYAS, founded two blocks away, the move represented a return to neighborhood roots—at 7 World Trade, the academy would be nested in its past as it moved toward the future. Hugh Hardy, commissioned for the 40,000-square-foot job, was returning to roots of his own. In 1996, Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates and designer Milton Glazer had renovated and expanded the legendary Windows on the World restaurant at the top of the first World Trade Center's north tower. Hardy already knew the skyline here. "At Windows, you felt you were flying over the city," he says. "But at the academy, on the 40th floor, you're still part of it. Also, at Windows, the building's exo-structure created narrow apertures. We designed the academy's whole perimeter so that everybody gets access to the views."
An abstraction of the skyline, his origamilike folded ceiling for Windows on the World was simultaneously a pragmatic way to gain height on the converted office floor below Warren Platner Associates's original 107th-floor restaurant. Building out the NYAS space, the recently formed H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture clustered elaborate duct- work in order to create areas as high as 10½ feet. "It was a real challenge to work around the ducts to get those ceiling slopes," director of interior design Darlene Fridstein says.
Another challenge was inherent to the building, which was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill as an extruded parallelogram to fit the geometry of the site. H3 designed three banks of workstations, private offices, conference rooms, and even the cabinetry in shapes that echo the floor plate's. Along one of its long sides runs a "boulevard" that terminates at Rubinstein's office. Here, another corridor angles back toward reception and the public spaces.
Discretion can be the better part of design, and H3 kept the interior visually quiet, deferring to views that stretch as far as the Atlantic Ocean. Unlike at Windows on the World, where warm colors appeared throughout, bursts of color appear primarily in those two corridors at NYAS, courtesy of graphics studio 2x4's science-themed digitally printed wall coverings. An anamorphic version of an 1847 painting of the trial of Galileo stretches down one hall; along another, 21 oversize flower images represent the color spectrum.
Windows on the World was purely a hospitality project: the main dining room, plus banquet and private dining rooms and a bar. At NYAS, flexible communal facilities for meetings and events figure prominently in the program. H3, known for its visual wit, abstracted the DNA double helix for the capacious auditorium's carpet in red, blue, yellow, and black wool. During conferences, a portion of the teak-floored reception area doubles as a break-out space, set apart by a white latticework screen. It's this decorative detail that perhaps best tells the story of NYAS's transformation through design—representing the local street grid with the academy's previous locations marked.
Transplanted from the Woolworth mansion's garden, a bronze bust of academy member Charles Darwin looks on as a gilt-framed oil portrait of NYAS's founder, physician Samuel L. Mitchell, presides. A cluster of updated red wing chairs acknowledges both then and now, while the surrounding space capitalizes on the best realities of the present to reorient the institution toward a larger future. The directors now have at their disposal a spatial instrument for cultivating public programs and fostering the conversations that have always been fundamental to scientific advance.