GRT Architects recently completed the renovation and historic restoration of Fashion Tower, an Art Deco-era skyscraper in New York’s Garment District. The building was designed by Emery Roth, best known for his iconic pre-war residential towers including the San Remo and Beresford. Among the many buildings in what was once the epicenter of American clothing design and manufacturing, Fashion Tower is unique for its ornamental motifs referencing the apparel industry and for being occupied to this day by the garment trade. Motivated by the resurgence of the Fashion District and the building’s unique history, the current owner asked GRT Architects to restore the facade of the tower’s base while sensitively incorporating a contemporary lobby.
Guided by Roth’s original drawings archived at Columbia University’s Avery Library, GRT Architects restored the exterior of Fashion Tower to its original splendor. Earlier renovations obscured a figured sandstone facade with layers of grey stucco and destroyed intricate detailing at the entry. Into a restored carved stone archway, GRT Architects added a minimal all-glass entry set back from the line of the masonry. True to Roth’s intentions, this portal is once again flanked by polychrome terracotta panels with peacock motifs— symbols of apparel, elegance and style. These peacocks rejoin surviving ornament that include winged putti holding shears and draping fabric, and women admiring their reflections and clutching spindles. A delicate façade cleaning revealed a richly veined sandstone cladding and forensic paint analysis was used to bring the appearance of cast iron spandrels and window frames back to the original.
Inside, GRT Architects extended Roth’s stylized celebration of the fashion industry with a double-height lobby clad in pleated calacatta marble and bronze-tinted aluminium. The geometry of the lobby wall nods to folds in fabric while the scale and material palette play on the delicate balance between imposing and intimate that is a hallmark of New York Art Deco. Off-site CNC fabrication and on-site handcraft was used to realize a contemporary design in a classic material. Drawing upon the building’s history to prepare it for the next hundred years of service, the renovation reasserts the importance of fashion and style in a dynamic neighborhood.
135 West 36th Street, New York, NY