Viceroy New York . New York
If Manhattan’s 57th Street is not quite the geographical center of the island, it is certainly the commercial and cultural heart of the city – home to some of the world’s most glamorous shopping, some of the city’s most beautiful and important architecture, and unparalleled cultural institutions.
But, on blocks west of Sixth Avenue, this important east-west axis, full of buildings built in the late 19th and early 20th century, has lost some of its sheen in recent decades. This seems to be changing now, with several high-profile new buildings bringing energy back to the area. As part of this resurgence, Roman and Williams has designed the Viceroy New York on a meaningful site at 120 West 57th Street that is part of the connective tissue that will begin to give the western half of 57th Street its glory back.
Roman and Williams has designed a building whose disciplined and reductive design gives it structure and clarity when viewed both from afar and from the street. Imagine reflective wet sidewalks at night giving way to a looming black tower, the rooms above glowing from dim warm lamps. Mies van der Rohe is famous for quoting “God is in the details”, and Roman and Williams devotes its practice to that mantra. The tower is a careful layout with simple forms and complex textures. The façade spans between two side walls that are made of iron-spot black brick; these define and frame the building’s front elevation. Between these, black muntined windows continue up the thirty-story building. When lit from within, they create the effect of a glowing lantern. These windows relate the new hotel to much of the iconic, pre-war architecture in the neighborhood. The addition of cast-glass bricks and brass fluting at the storefront harkens to pre-war structures and the glamour of iconic New York. Firm principal Stephen Alesch adds, “The building is laid out on a strict grid between two simple flanking walls; vertical steel struts run up the entire face of the building, which are the exoskeleton used to express structure. These are benchmarks of the Miesian approach. However, there is something distinct about our approach. Our version of Neo-Miesian design looks back rather than forward, a concept that we believe is forward thinking. Looking back to move forward, our building pre-dates that identity to an earlier era – Pre-Mies!” Overall, the design projects a strength and discipline that new properties in the area occasionally lack, appealing to both downtown and uptown dynamics.
The design of the hotel’s public spaces is defined by heavily figured marble, rarely used in New York City as of late. While it was a common element of the aspirational buildings of the 1920s and 1930s, it lost its popularity as a flatter, less-articulated modernism took hold. Roman and Williams has embraced the elegant and natural quality of this Paonazzo marble, using it to clad nearly the entire lobby; the stone is offset by book-matched, honey-toned woods and tambour paneling, culminating in a handsome wood library. The combination gives strength and presence to the lobby. Shadows, depth, articulation, and layers are the goal, with nothing left plain, white, or spare; nothing left empty or abstract. The spaces are understated yet grand, featuring a combination of custom-designed and vintage elements.
The interior color palette, though modest and limited in its scope, is strong, elegant, and masculine. The guest rooms feature rich exotic iroko wood, leather, and a mix of metals, such as brass and aluminum. The tambour paneling from the lobby is echoed in the rooms as well. They are reminiscent of a tailored ship’s cabin with exceptional views toward Central Park, as seen through the elegant muntined black windows, which span floor to ceiling. The overall effect is closer to the feeling of an atelier, rather than a hotel. The rooms are fitted with an original collection of lighting, handmade of perforated brass, with aluminum strapping and hardware, and detailed with precision and weight.
Roman and Williams has taken their signature approach of “looking back to move forward” to remain true to the history of the area while forging new ground. Another of the firm’s principals, Robin Standefer, explains, “An inspiration for the design of the building originally came from a Noir concept – Noir as in ‘Film Noir’, the notoriously stylish crime dramas of the 1940’s. A collision of the Old World and the New World. That’s where we want to be, that’s where we want to live, and that’s what we want to share with the people who work, stay and drop in at the Viceroy.” The neighborhood has a mixture of styles – from beaux arts, to art deco, to classical – and this project can hold its own in this mix.