Board Considering Landmark Status for Rainbow Room Said ‘No’ Once Before

This isn’t exactly déjà vu all over again, but it is probably worth nothing that the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission — which last week took the first step toward designating the Rainbow Room in Rockefeller Center an interior landmark — has said no to the idea before.

That was in 1998, according to the commission’s files. The commission’s director of research at the time concluded that the “current interior space was largely created by architect Hugh Hardy in 1987, interpreting the Art Deco spirit in contemporary form.”

That did not meet “the criteria for designation in regard to age,” which state that  potential landmarks must be at least 30 years old.

Time flies, but not that fast: 1987 was only 25 years ago, and the commission’s rules have not changed. But the commission now says that elements of the Rainbow Room are old  enough to make it eligible for consideration. After all, the Rainbow Room opened on Oct. 3, 1934, not quite 78 years ago.

“Our most recent evaluation involved a careful analysis of the original features and those that were restored as part of the 1980s renovation,” Elisabeth de Bourbon, a spokeswoman for the commission, said by e-mail last week. “We determined that the historic room configuration and remaining original features meet the commission’s age requirements.”

The 1998 letter turning down the idea of landmark designation was addressed to Lee Presser, who said last week that he had had no real connection to the Rainbow Room in 1998 and did not remember seeking the designation.

“I had friends who worked at the Rainbow Room,” he said. “It’s conceivable I did it, but I don’t even remember it.”

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Bacon Scattered Before Muslim Celebration May Be Bias Crime

As the first of an estimated 1,500 Muslims began to arrive at Cpl. Allan E. Kivlehan Park in New Dorp, Staten Island, early Sunday morning to celebrateed Id al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, they discovered uncooked bacon scattered on the ground.

The New York Police Department is investigating the incident as a possible bias crime.

Muslims do not eat pork products. Pig parts have been used in other instances to taunt Muslims, according to a statement by the Council on American-Islamic Relations of New York.

The police said they did not know how much bacon had been placed on the ground. The incident was reported Sunday by the Staten Island Advance.

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A Digitally Inspired Veil, Intended to Save Lives, Appears at N.Y.U. Library

“One of New York’s most spectacular architectural experiences,” Paul Goldberger, then the architecture critic of The New York Times, wrote in 1973 about the atrium of the new Elmer Holmes Bobst Library at New York University. It was that, indeed.

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It also proved to be one of the most unnerving. The thin aluminum balusters ringing the balconies of the 12-story structure seemed disquietingly insubstantial against the 150-foot-high void beyond. When seen from above, the trompe-l’oeil floor looked like a three-dimensional fantasy landscape by M. C. Escher that almost beckoned the viewer to enter. A journey through Bobst could feel precarious even on the best day.

And there were three dreadful days. On Sept. 12, 2003, John D. Skolnik, a junior, jumped to his death in the atrium. Less than a month later, on Oct. 10, so did Stephen Bohler, a freshman. Within weeks, the university installed eight-foot-high clear polycarbonate barriers along the balconies. Despite this measure, on Nov. 3, 2009, Andrew E. Williamson-Noble, a junior, also jumped to his death there.

One step the university took in response to these and other student deaths was to commission Joel Sanders Architect to reimagine the troublesome space in Bobst. Instead of trying to create an inconspicuous barrier, Mr. Sanders and his colleagues have designed randomly perforated aluminum screens that completely enclose the balconies around the perimeter of the atrium and the open staircase connecting them, transforming the space in consequence. University officials expect the renovation to be finished next month. They would not disclose the cost.

Though the panels visually isolate the enormous central volume from the surrounding stacks, reading rooms and offices, they can — in the right light — look as gauzy as theatrical scrims. They can also look like showers of gold confetti, in keeping with the late-’60s aesthetic of the building, which was designed by Philip Johnson and Richard T. Foster. But the screens are most intended to remind you of digital pixels.

“The whole idea was to come up with something sympathetic to the Philip Johnson design while being in and of today,” said Andrew T. Repoli, a director of construction management at New York University. “We didn’t want something that would have been hip 40 years ago.”

The 20-foot-tall panels weigh only about 150 pounds each, answering the university’s requirement that the barriers not place structural stress on the cantilevered balconies. The barriers also had to be transparent enough to allow daylight into the atrium and permeable enough to permit ventilation and, in emergencies, smoke purging.

The pattern extends the line of the balusters vertically with slender tines, four inches apart. Between the tines are solid rectangles or open rectangles. The proportion of open rectangles is greatest on the north side of the atrium, where daylight comes in through exterior windows overlooking Washington Square.

The composition around the atrium appears entirely random, but there are actually only 39 different patterns among the 286 panels.

SHoP Construction Services assisted in the design and engineering, Mr. Repoli said. Three-dimensional rendering software by Catia made it possible for the panel fabricators (MG McGrath of Maplewood, Minn.) to use the computer files created by the designers to cut openings in the quarter-inch aluminum.

At the moment, much of the work is hard to see. Among facets that critics may seize upon — and, this being N.Y.U., there will certainly be critics — is that the screens express technology’s new primacy, all but obscuring traditional forms of scholarship behind a cascade of random data. Critics may also discern a feeling of defeat in having to undertake such a fundamental alteration in the hope of saving students’ lives.

But in Mr. Repoli’s eyes, the architectural intervention is appropriately minimal. “You really don’t lose the visual qualities of the original atrium,” he said. “This is almost like a beautiful piece of lace that’s been stretched taut against the balcony slabs.”

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