Built from 1867-1899, the New York State Capitol in Albany is a National Historic Landmark. Thomas Fuller originally designed the Capitol, but in 1875, H.H. Richardson and Leopold Eidlitz were recruited to complete the building. Richardson concentrated on the west and south sides while Eidlitz designed the east and north sides including the Gothic Revival Assembly Chamber and the Assembly Parlor, two of the most important nineteenth century interiors in the United States.
During the second half of the 20th century, pressure for office space, modern environmental systems, and changes in architectural sensibility caused many unfortunate changes. Walls were furred out and dropped ceilings built to accommodate HVAC and lighting. Mezzanines were built under soaring vaults to provide offices and arched doorways were blocked. The Viewing Galleries, built for the public to observe Assembly proceedings, were walled off from the Chamber and used for offices and copy rooms. The Assembly Chamber windows were fitted with milky glass, making it impossible to see out. The building became introverted and uninviting to the public and the Assembly Chamber lost its views of the city of Albany.
Hierarchical progressions, fostered symmetries, orientation to city views and natural light and air are significant features of this late 19th century building and the ill considered mid 20th century alterations had profoundly undermined the clarity and beauty of the spaces. Our focus in all the projects we designed in the building was to reassert the building's fundamental qualities.
Phase IV includes the restoration of two major public meeting rooms: the Gothic Revival Assembly Parlor designed by Leopold Eidlitz, and the Beaux Arts Speaker's Conference Room, as well as the renovation of several new offices for the NYS Assembly. The restoration of the Parlor involved major infrastructure work to incorporate modern mechanical systems without any visual impact on the historic character and details of this significant room.
In the majority leader's office a glass floor and in the Ways and Means chairman's office a glass wall were introduced to incorporate new functions while keeping the historic architecture legible. Here the old and the new come into contact as complementary elements.
American Institute of Architects: Award of Merit, 2003.
Capitol Improvements" by Ned Depew; Berkshire Home & Style