Bringing a 1980s Classic at Carnegie Hall Tower Into the 21st Century
By Rebecca Baird-Remba February 16, 2023 8:00 amreprints
Renovating a building designed by a famous architect isn’t easy. Such was architect David Briggs’ dilemma at TF Cornerstone’s Carnegie Hall Tower, a 1990 office building designed by Cesar Pelli at 150 West 57th Street.
Briggs, a principal at Loci Architecture, wanted to update the building’s dated, 1980s-style lobby without altering Pelli’s design too much.
“We had to tread lightly and make sure we didn’t upset fans of Cesar Pelli’s work,” said Briggs. “We had some pushback about stripping out everything Pelli had done, so we kept the stone.”
The long, through-block lobby runs from 57th to 58th streets between Seventh and Eighth avenues. Both the walls and floors feature heavily veined stone — a combination of dark green and black stone panels along the floor and along parts of the wall, and rust orange and white stone along the rest of the walls. The stone was kept and patched in some places, while most other pieces of the lobby were replaced.
The architects opted to rip out the ceiling, which was a series of backlit panels framed by dark beams. Above the ceiling panels were air conditioning equipment and another drop ceiling. They moved some of the heating and cooling equipment elsewhere in the lobby and replaced the lit-up panels with a much simpler white drop ceiling. Angular light fixtures along the walls were also replaced with vertical ones, and the elevator cabs and mechanicals were updated.
The old reception desk, a big hunk of round stone, was replaced by an angular corner desk featuring white Caesarstone counters, sides covered with gold mesh, and wood paneling on the inside walls. The lobby is also technically a privately owned public space (POPS), which raised some issues during construction.
“Jake [Elghanayan] wanted to do a coffee bar in the POPS, but the Department of City Planning wouldn’t let him,” said Briggs. “He wanted to have some tables in the lobby, too.”
After realizing that modifying the POPS permit with the city might be too difficult, Elghanayan, a principal at owner TF Cornerstone, opted to simply renovate the lobby instead. Construction started in the middle of 2019 and finished in 2021.