A new power play is in the works at the landmarked Manhattan eatery famous for its power lunches. After a much-publicized landmarks battle, real estate developer RFR Holdings has shuffled architects in the impending renovation of the Philip Johnson-designed interiors at the Four Seasons restaurant.
Selldorf Architects—initially chosen for the entire overhaul—has been reassigned as “restoration architect” responsible for touching up the restaurant’s landmarked design features. Meanwhile RFR favorite, William T. Georgis Architect, will be responsible for the interior’s “soft goods,” defining the new restaurant’s look and feel.
The Four Seasons Restaurant, located in Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building, remained virtually untouched since opening in 1959 and was designated an interior landmark three decades later. RFR co-founder, Aby Rosen, set off a maelstrom of controversy among preservationists when Selldorf’s first design proposed to swap out operable panels in the restaurant’s Pool Room and the cracked glass partition in its Grill Room. After a Landmarks and Preservation Commission hearing last May, only a change in carpet color was given the green light.
Now, according to Selldorf Architects, the firm is “assisting” with the renovation and will restore the travertine, bronze, and French walnut finishes, as well as those in the restroom.
Georgis will be responsible for new signature elements including replacements for table settings and furniture for the Four Season’s reincarnation—a yet unnamed restaurant headed up by chefs Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi. Its current owners Alex von Bidder and Julian Niccolini will be taking the furniture, original flatware, and the restaurant name with them to a new location, said to be nearby.
Architect Annabelle Selldorf, who was named the 2016 recipient of AIA New York's Medal of Honor Wednesday, says, “I was optimistic there would be an agreement between the Four Seasons Restaurant and RFR for keeping the furniture. I was very upset that the furniture left—I thought the restaurant would look the same, if not taste the same [with the new operators].”
She adds, “I am happy to renovate the bronze Richard Lippold sculptures, beaded curtains, the paneling and the stairs. There is little overlap with Bill [Georgis]. I have plenty of respect for him.”
Georgis is a known favorite of Rosen, designing the splashy restaurant interiors for Casa Lever in SOM’s International Style Lever House. Next door, Georgis is designing the amenity spaces and lobby for RFR’s new Foster + Partner’s residential tower, 100 E. 53rd St.
“We love him; he is great with colors and is the master of the soft goods,” Rosen told the New York Post.
The current Four Seasons Restaurant will close its doors this July, after its rent increased five-fold. Fellow Seagram tenant, the Brasserie, has already shuttered. Architect Peter Marino—known for luxury shops like Dior and Chanel—will completely revamp those spaces, which are not landmarked (Diller Scofidio + Renfro gave the place a major facelift in 2000, following a two-alarm fire in the Philip Johnson-designed interiors).
RFR could not comment on either deal before contracts are finalized.
Read our past Four Seasons Restaurant coverage here.
Additional reporting by Suzanne Stephens.