Gabellini Sheppard Associates adds subtle improvements to lobby and plaza at 45 Rockefeller Center

How Perfect Perfection Can Be

Gabellini Sheppard Associates adds subtle improvements to lobby and plaza at 45 Rockefeller Center

The two main materials in 45 Rockefeller’s palatial lobby are Tinos marble walls and copper leaf ceiling. (Paul Warchol/Courtesy Gabellini Sheppard Associates)

When Rockefeller Center opened its doors in 1935, it took the art world by storm, and put its architect Raymond Hood on the map. It was here, Rem Koolhaas later attested in Delirious New York, where Hood was first able to put his ideas about urbanism into practice: “[Rockefeller] Center must combine the maximum of congestion with the maximum of light and space,” Hood said.

The International Building at Rockefeller Center, otherwise known as 45 Rockefeller, was landmarked by New York City in 1985, and declared a National Landmark in 1989. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission has described the Art Deco ensemble as “one of the most dramatic spaces of its kind in New York City.” Now, the east lobby and exterior plaza at 45 Rockefeller, where Lee Lawrie’s famous Atlas sits, has been renovated by Gabellini Sheppard Associates, a New York firm that has worked on various projects across the historic complex. This latest renovation completed in 2022.

Raymond Hood’s 45 Rockefeller Center was declared a New York City landmark in 1985. (Paul Warchol/Courtesy Gabellini Sheppard Associates)

On average, over 800,000 tourists visit Rockefeller Center daily; and 125 million people visit each year, a number that’s more than Broadway, Central Park, The Met, The Empire State Building, Times Square, and the Statue of Liberty combined. Gabellini Sheppard Associates was brought on to preserve the renowned lobby and plaza at 45 Rockefeller for future generations to enjoy, the architects said.

New lighting amplifies the existing marble work. (Paul Warchol/Courtesy Gabellini Sheppard Associates)

At 45 Rockefeller, Gabellini Sheppard Associates integrated subtle cove, linear, and downlighting elements into the landmarked space. This amplifies the true colors of the green Tinos marble walls and copper leaf ceiling; materials that previously went unappreciated thanks to poor lighting in the palatial lobby.

Cove benching (Paul Warchol/Courtesy Gabellini Sheppard Associates)

The modern lighting solutions put on a pedestal the original marble and copper leaf ceiling, just as Raymond Hood intended.