The Landmarks Preservation Commission is scheduled to review a proposal to partially renovate and repurpose the ground floor areas of the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank in Lower Manhattan into an immersive digital museum and gallery. Titled “Hall Des Lumieres,” the exhibition would feature 3D projections of the works of famed Austrian painter Gustav Klimt and would require architectural modifications to both the building’s façade and landmarked interiors.
Located at 49-51 Chambers Street, the historic Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank was built between 1909 and 1912 and survives today as one of New York City’s most impressive examples of Beaux Arts construction. Behind the ornate, frieze-embellished façade is an even more remarkable grand hall and banking room with ceiling spans in excess of 40 feet. Interior adornments that have survived more than a century include stained glass panels, brass embellishments, intricate limestone carvings, and beehive motifs. This ground-floor interior space was also landmarked by the LPC in 1985.
Proposed changes to the façade include a new canopied public entrance, a staff entrance, and what appears to be a storage room or back-of-house entrance. The design team has also proposed the installation of discreet LED lighting to highlight the ornate exterior and exhibition signage, which includes several flag posts and vinyl banners measuring 14 feet wide by 18 feet tall.
Within, renderings reveal pervasive refurbishment of the historic limestone walls and pillars, marble treatments, and the existing brass-cased doors. The teller windows and stone knee wall would be entirely removed to improve interior circulation and make space for a coat room and ticketing and gift shop areas. Renderings also reveal a new half-flight stairway leading up to a mezzanine viewing area.
All stone materials removed to support the exhibition would be repurposed, where possible, to refinish the exposed sides of the new wall openings.
The project team behind the temporary exhibition includes Culturespaces, a French design studio that specializes in the adaptive reuse of historic buildings into video-powered canvases, and IMG, a global sports, entertainment, and media company. The Chetrit Group, the current owner of the building, purchased the property from New York City in 2013 for $89 million and is currently converting the upper levels of the structure into condominiums.
Global architecture and consulting studio Woods Bagot has served as executive architect for the building’s residential conversion. The studio will also oversee the conversion and historic preservation of the ground-floor exhibition area.
The LPC will host a public hearing for the project on Tuesday, May 5.