Combining historic preservation and adaptive reuse, Gabellini Sheppard Associates restored the neoclassical office lobby of the former AT&T Building in Lower Manhattan and completed a non-intrusive renovation to house new retail spaces and a public galleria. The 45,000-square-foot project, commissioned by L&L Holding Company, ensures the stewardship and revitalization of a monumental building whose exterior and interior are designated landmarks.
Originally designed by William Welles Bosworth and opened in 1916, the historic lobby of 195 Broadway reflects the aspirations of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) to attain civic importance. The lobby, with entrances on three sides (Fulton Street, Broadway, and Dey Street), was once an urban nexus animated by retail activity, public telephones, and company business services as well as the daily flow of office workers. By the time the building was designated a New York City landmark in 2006, after successive owners, the lobby and lower-level spaces had become dormant and detached from the life of the city. With careful research and approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission, Gabellini Sheppard Associates created a preservation and retail masterplan to conserve the building’s character while adding three new retail spaces connecting the lobby and lower level.
At the Dey Street office lobby entrance, a restored four-bay entry threshold supersedes the non-historic two-bay system, Raised floors from the 1960s are lowered to match their original height, reestablishing visual harmony between the entrance portal and the facing elevator bank. The non-historic, partial-height glass and metal walls at the two interior Dey Street pavilions are replaced with frameless, partial-height glass walls to restore and re-open the original view.
A public galleria connects Fulton and Dey streets, traversing the lobby along its most spectacular axis, allowing visitors to experience the magnificent forest of columns without having to cross through the office reception or any retail space. The galleria also restores public access to the 1915 bronze relief map commemorating the first transcontinental phone line, a 1928 marble sculptural group by Chester Beach, and several engraved tablets and benches, highlighting the building’s remarkable history and craftsmanship for a new generation.
The northern and eastern sections of the lobby, fronting on Fulton Street and Broadway, respectively, are non-intrusively equipped to house up to three retail tenants. This retail area is minimally partitioned from the office lobby via optical, transparent glass panels that preserve the sweeping continuity of the hypostyle hall—defined by massive marble Doric columns and a high coffered ceiling with patinated bronze and alabaster chandeliers. The new glass panels are suspended from one-half-inch-diameter cables fixed discreetly to the floor and ceiling, much as the lobby’s original retail partition walls were attached with only slight visible evidence. This cable suspension system is flexible and reversible; it can be removed or reconfigured if necessary, leaving a mostly invisible trace. In addition, a new stair opening in each of the three retail spaces, plus two new ADA elevator openings, enable access to the lower-level retail spaces without disrupting the building’s historic office lobby.