2017 AIA Awards – Interior Architecture

Firm: Gabellini Sheppard Associates

Associate Firm: Montroy Andersen DeMarco

Owner: Tishman Speyer Properties

Location: New York City

In its quest to rejuvenate a preeminent event space high atop New York City’s iconic 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the design team incorporated a contemporary program that meshes with deeply embedded memories of a landmark space.

The renovation of the Rainbow Room and 65th floor, which included 13,500 square feet in total, was fueled by extensive archival research. Originally conceived as the main public amenity floor, the 65th floor carries the air of a luxury ocean liner with its stunning panoramic view of the city. An additional 4,465 square feet of the floor that does not carry landmark designation was completely redesigned and echoes the Art Deco feel of its original design. The entire process capped a lengthy collaboration with the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Conceived in the early 1930s by architect Wallace K. Harrison, the Rainbow Room had seen successive renovations in the 1960s, ’70s, and ‘80s. By 2009 the room was clearly showing its age, and historic features were damaged or missing. To rejuvenate the space, numerous elements of the original room were re-created, most notably the rotating dance floor. Directly above the floor, the domed ceiling was refinished with white gold leaf, while the historic chandelier—as well as three others—were restored to their former sparkling glamour. Window veils of Czech Bohemian crystal are installed at each window, creating reflective rainbow effects that dance across the room throughout the day.

On the western side of the floor, bar and lounge Bar SixtyFive carries the vibe of the Rainbow Room while a faceted ceiling of gypsum panels in its center provides a sense of airiness and flirts with the room’s history as an open-air sun parlor.

The project is a prime example of architects polishing and respecting history while setting it up for prosperity in the future.

Additional information

Construction Manager: Turner Interiors

Kitchen Consultants: Clevenger Frable LaVallee; Blau and Associates

Landmarks Consultant: Higgins Quasebarth & Partners

Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing: Edwards & Zuck

Structural Engineer: Severud Associates


Hagy Belzberg, FAIA (Chair), Belzberg Architects, Santa Monica, California

Jodi R. Ernst, AIA, Universal Studios, Orlando

Karen Fairbanks, AIA, Marble Fairbanks, Brooklyn, New York

Paula Peer, AIA, Trapolin-Peer Architects, New Orleans

Jim Poteet, FAIA, Poteet Architects, LP, San Antonio

Image credits

30RockefellerPlaza65thFloor-RainbowRoom-SixtyFive 01

Paul Warchol Photography

30RockefellerPlaza65thFloor-RainbowRoom-SixtyFive(24) 02

Paul Warchol Photography

30RockefellerPlaza65thFloor-RainbowRoom-SixtyFive(25) 03

Paul Warchol Photography

30RockefellerPlaza65thFloor-RainbowRoom-SixtyFive(26) 04

Paul Warchol Photography

30RockefellerPlaza65thFloor-RainbowRoom-SixtyFive(27) 05

Paul Warchol Photography