Vilcek Foundation

Architect: Architecture Research Office

Owner:  Vilcek Foundation

Location: New York, NY

This extensive restoration has transformed the Vilcek Foundation's new five-story New York headquarters, furthering its critical work of raising awareness of immigrants' contributions in America and broadening appreciation for the arts and sciences. With new space for exhibitions and administrative functions, the project unites an original 1919 building with its mid-1960s renovations at a pivotal moment in the foundation's history.

Outside, the team's renovation strategy merged the original masonry building along Central Park designed by William H. Rogers with later modifications handled by Carson, Lundin & Snow. The cohesive composition is defined by its refined proportions, materials, and details. To highlight the symmetry embedded in the neoclassical façade and enhance public access to the foundation's galleries, the team infilled the entrance with a large marble panel flanked by bronze doors. The rest of the façade was restored to its original appearance.

Inside, the building is organized vertically. Support spaces are located in the cellar, galleries are on the first and second floors, and offices are on the third and fourth floors. A fifth-floor apartment that houses the foundation's director crowns the building.

The careful attention to finish and detail found in this project is reflective of the foundation's commitment to quality for both staff and visitors.

The two gallery floors are defined by ribbed glass fiber reinforced gypsum ceilings that accommodate lighting, HVAC, and acoustic absorption. Both levels are connected by a new stair crafted from bronze, steel, and terrazzo, and a garden terrace extends from the second-floor gallery. The upper floors include a central common area that houses circulation and reception, where daylight is drawn from a preexisting niche in the east wall. A curtain wall on the rear elevation evokes earlier mid-century windows while providing additional daylight and higher energy performance.

The team designed the custom furniture found throughout the building, namely the reception desk and leather benches in the exhibition galleries. The team also assisted the client in selecting additional furniture, including the office systems and furnishings for the director's apartment.

The careful attention to finish and detail found in this project is reflective of the foundation's commitment to quality for both staff and visitors. The renovated and restored building represents its new identity and reinvigorated public programming, which is free and open for all to experience.

Additional information

Structural Engineer: Silman

General Contractor: Xhema Industries

MEP/FP: Buro Happold

1919 Façade Restoration: Walter Melvin Architects

Lighting: Renfro Design Group

Acoustic: Lally Acoustical Consulting

Elevator: IROS Elevator

Waterproofing/Envelope: Simpson Gumpertz & Heger

Geotechnical/Civil: RA Consultants

Code Consulting: Jensen Hughes

Expediting: CODE, LLC

Graphics: Pentagram

Landmarks: Higgins Quasebarth & Partners

Owner’s Representative: Karen Thomas Associates


Carol Bentel, FAIA, Chair, Bentel & Bentel, Locust Valley, NY

Michelle Watanabe, AIA, Leo A Daly, Minneapolis, MN

John Harrison, FAIA, GreenSlate, Seattle, WA

Venesa Alicea, AIA, NOMA, New York, NY

Heather Rose-Dunning, IIDA, Yellow Dog Studio, Minneapolis, MN

Image credits

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Elizabeth Felicella

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