A dazzling new performance space has opened on the Upper East Side. The Board of Officers Room at the Park Avenue Armory, a riot of color, pattern, and intricately carved wood, has been meticulously restored for chamber-scaled concerts, installations, and events by Herzog & de Meuron and Platt Byard Dovell. Originally designed by the Herter Brothers—the leading interior designers of their day—the Board of Officers Room is an important example of the American Aesthetic Movement, paneled in fiery red Honduran mahogany with elaborate floral stenciling above.
Led by Herzog & de Meuron senior partner Ascan Mergenthaler, the process of restoring the room was one of “de-layering,” removing grime, earlier alternations, and repairing damage caused by time, neglect, and water (the rooms had been on the World Monuments Fund’s list of endangered cultural sites). Relying on the latest thinking in preservation practice, the design team meticulously restored existing finishes and inserted contemporary reinterpretations of the Herter designs where there were gaps. While this approach is sympathetic to the intentions of the original designers and draws a line between what is old and new, the results are so harmonious that the distinctions will likely be lost on visitors. Dazzling metal and glass chandeliers have been restored. Herzog & de Meuron’s most noticeable contemporary insertion is chainmail curtains, which moderate the light streaming through the massive windows.