Françoise Bollack Architects was retained to renovate the lobby of The Leonori at 26 East 63rd street, a building designed by Buchman & Kahn in 1901 as an apartment hotel. The present entrance on East 63rd street was created in the 1920s and 1930s when the hotel lobby on Madison Avenue was eliminated to privide retail spaces: it was subsequently renovated in the 1980s but the heavy Postmodern design is now felt to undermine the building’s status as a luxury residence.
The space consists of a vestibule at street level from which one ascends up a few steps to the lobby then to a very small space at the elevators, with a low ceiling that cannot be raised due to structural concerns. Fortunately, the vestibule and lobby still retain their delicately ornamented ceilings and we decided to use these original features as a point if departure for the new design.
The new lobby walls will be clad in a light colored limestone framing large panels made of laminated glass with a mirror backing and a metallic interlayer to add depth, richness and texture to the spaces. The floor will be a light grey travertine. The intended effect is one of permanence and lightness, using rich materials and spare detailing.
The ceilings play an important role in residents’ and visitors’ experience as using the steps makes them look up. We decided to use the ceilings to visually connect the vestibule and the lobby by refinishing the center field in a metallic leaf. The end wall, on axis with the entrance will also have a gold leaf inset panel, completing the visual line of the ceilings.
The doorman station will consist of a small desk at the top of the steps with additional equipment contained in a niche built in the pier framing the transition between the vestibule and the lobby.