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Published in The New York Times | November 19, 2018

A 21st-Century Renaissance for Ford Foundation Landmark

By Michael Kimmelman

Some good news: Employees are moving back into the Ford Foundation headquarters, between 42nd and 43rd Streets, a stone’s throw from the United Nations.

A two-year, $205 million makeover is nearly done.

Designed by Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo, the heirs to Eero Saarinen’s practice, Ford reimagined corporate modernism in the mid-1960s. Offices wrapped around a soaring atrium garden. Light poured through a saw-tooth skylight and glass curtain walls fixed in place by grids of rusting Corten steel.

Clad in gray-pink Dakota granite, the refined, muscular building conveyed an uncanny combination of heaviness and delicacy, solidity and transparency.

Published in Curbed | November 20, 2018

Building Your Values

By Alexandra Lange

When the Ford Foundation’s 12 stories of mahogany-colored granite, Cor-Ten steel, and transparent glass opened on 42nd Street in 1967, urban observers saw it as a gift.

Designed by Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo Associates with Dan Kiley as landscape architect, the building—comprising offices for the foundation’s several hundred employees, all wrapping a vertical indoor botanical garden—could have been two and a half times larger as of right.

The Ford Foundation didn’t have to open its garden atrium to the public, either. What was considered so benevolent five decades ago, however, doesn’t seem like gift enough in 2018. Good design, quality materials. Public-facing design, quality materials: these remain elements that we praise but, as critics of the time noted, they should be the minimum. For a philanthropic organization like the Ford Foundation, the challenge was to apply those 21st-century values to a monument of the 20th century.

Published in New York Magazine | December 3, 2018

Growing Out of the ’60s: The Ford Foundation Building Gets Renewed

By Justin Davidson

Renovating a building is like taking a long, honest look at your life. You have to decide which parts to keep buffing and which have fallen away, how much sameness to cling to without getting stuck in the past, how to embrace change without betraying your core. Preservation means understanding that a course chosen decades ago no longer means the same thing. In the 1960s, a handsome ashtray embedded in an armrest was a touch of thoughtfully deluxe design, not an incitement to antisocial behavior. Few of us were ever as enlightened as we thought.

Those brass ashtrays remain — as relics, rather than conveniences — in the seats of the Ford Foundation’s auditorium after a sensitive, even self-indulgently gorgeous renovation. The $205 million refurbishment, by Gensler and the landscape architecture firm Jungles Studio, has rejuvenated the building (which faces East 42nd and 43rd Streets, between First and Second Avenues), and restored many details while deliberately transforming its spirit. Completed in 1967, when Manhattan seemed unbearably chaotic, the building, by Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo, bathed the foundation staff in an atmosphere of monastic serenity. The centerpiece of this urban retreat was an indoor public garden designed by Dan Kiley, where stepped walkways paved in topsoil-colored brick threaded through dense greenery, rich in blossoms, foliage, and shade. With touching hubris, the architects believed that the beauty of their midtown Eden would promote world peace. “It will be possible, in this building, to look across the court and see your fellow man or sit on a bench in the garden and discuss the problems of Southeast Asia. There will be an awareness of the whole scope of the foundation’s activities,” Roche predicted before construction had even begun.

Published in Architectural Digest | December 3, 2018

The Iconic Ford Foundation Building in NYC Is Given a Modernizing Makeover

By Fred A. Bernstein

The Ford Foundation building offers New Yorkers a tropical vacation: a lush 10,000-square-foot garden at the base of a towering atrium. The garden, conceived and executed by the great midcentury landscape architect Dan Kiley, has long been open to the public, but the foundation didn’t advertise that fact. Now, at the direction of foundation President Darren Walker, that’s about to change. Sign “totems” on both sides of the building—which runs from 42nd to 43rd Streets east of Second Avenue—will invite the public in. Revamped by Florida landscape architect Raymond Jungles, the garden has improved wheelchair accessibility and includes new features for the vision-impaired. It will even be open on Saturdays, a first.

But Walker has changed much more than the garden. The building, completed in 1968, has been widely admired as a model of what modernists can do with lush materials; architects Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo employed pinkish Dakota granite and patinated Cor-Ten steel to give the building gravitas. Indeed, the Ford Foundation building was about image-making as much as efficiency. Visiting the president of the foundation required stops at three separate receptions areas. The president’s inner office was large enough for 40 people.

The Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation is an independent organization working to address inequality and build a future grounded in justice. For more than 85 years, it has supported visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. Today, with an endowment of $16 billion, the foundation has headquarters in New York and 10 regional offices across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

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