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Iconic UN Hotel Restaurant At Risk of Demolition, Activists Say

Ambassador Grill, closed for renovations, has a distinctive design that activists fear will disappear.

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Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo Associates

The iconic Ambassador Grill restaurant inside the ONE UN New York Hotel may be at risk of demolition, according to Curbed. It's already closed for renovations, according to the hotel's website, and architecture activists fear that owner Millennium Hotels will illegally demolish the 1970s style interior — one of the few left intact in New York — in the process, a tactic that developers have previously used. Advocates with conversation group Docomomo have filed an urgent request for evaluation with the Landmarks Preservation Commission in hopes of preserving it.

Ambassador Grill, designed by Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates in 1975 and 1983, uses mirrors, patterns, and lighting to trick the eye into seeing space, daylight, and high ceilings, according to Curbed architecture critic Alexandra Lange, who urges Landmarks to protect the space. "The Ambassador Grill is the only intact example of the glamorous dining establishments that followed in the footsteps of Philip Johnson's Four Seasons Restaurant," Lange writes. Other folk in the architecture community have also voiced their support to landmark the space.

The owners of the building have been vocal about wanting to change the interior. In 2012, a hotel consultant called the space "just darn tired" and expressed a desire to get rid of the mirrors. Part of the issue is that Landmarks doesn't like to landmark interior spaces. Still, the space still meets requirements for typical preservation candidates, such as a Pritzker Prize-winning architect who's built several monuments. Roche tells Lange he wasn't surprised by the new hotel owners desire to change the place, but he does think it should be preserved. "Interiors are where we live," he says. "That's what we should protect more than anything else."