This luxury hotel occupies a key site in one of the most tony areas of midtown Manhattan. At 682 feet high, the 51-story tower, is the tallest hotel in New York. It was designed for recognition on the skyline (clearly set apart from surrounding office buildings) with a series of 12-foot lanterns that shed downlight onto the hotel’s stepped and faceted form. The tower’s unique shape resulted from the requirements of the irregular through-block site, which was assembled from eleven separate parcels of land in two different zoning districts, each with its own massing, setback, and height ordinances. The building is clad in the same honey-colored French limestone that Pei had used at the Louvre.
The interior responds to the client’s wish “to epitomize the highest standards of luxury” in a city that already had multiple 5-star hotels. Using the finest materials to create an atmosphere of dignity and elegance, both festive and durable, Pei sought to rekindle the grand traditions of an earlier era, when going to a hotel was an exciting social event. According to The New York Times architecture critic Paul Goldberger, the hotel’s most notable characteristic is its “staggering grandeur.” Emphasis was not on workaday efficiency – checking in and out quickly – but on creating a gracious salon-like atmosphere, a stage for urban theater, where people could linger in the terraced lobby over cocktails or coffee and enjoy the spectacle of seeing, and being part of, the fashionable New York scene.
Pei accepted the commission in part because his friend William Zeckendorf, Jr., son of his former employer, was part of the client development group. The hotel began as the Regent New York in 1988 but when the entire Regent International Hotel chain was sold in 1992, a year before the hotel opened, it became the Four Seasons New York.
In 1993, the Four Seasons Hotel received a Concrete Industry Board Award of Merit and also the Annual Award of the East Side Association. In the following year, The Building Stone Institute conferred on it the Annual Tucker Award for excellence in design with natural stone.
Design Team: I.M. Pei, Design Partner; W. Stephen Wood, Design Architect; Frank Williams, Associate Architect
Pei Cobb Freed & Partners