Gabellini Sheppard Associates has proposed an extensive redesign of existing lighting fixtures in an effort to improve the illumination of distinguished artworks throughout Rockefeller Center. The scope of work covers nearly every building and their respective façades between West 48th Street and West 51st Street, spanning Sixth Avenue, Rockefeller Plaza, and Fifth Avenue.
Proposals for the project fill nearly 100 pages, which were made public before review by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The public hearing for this phase of a larger beatification project took place on Tuesday, June 23, 2020.
Beginning with Rockefeller Center’s eastern boundary, affected buildings include 45 Rockefeller Plaza, 620 Fifth Avenue, 610 Fifth Avenue, and 600 Fifth Avenue. Buildings at the western boundary include 1270 Sixth Avenue, 1250 Sixth Avenue, and 1230 Sixth Avenue. Within the busy pedestrian plaza, impacted areas include the seasonal ice rink and retail center also known as the “Sunken Plaza,” 1 Rockefeller Plaza, 10 Rockefeller Plaza, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, 45 Rockefeller Plaza, and 50 Rockefeller Plaza.
In short, new lighting fixtures that could be installed into existing limestone façades include cornice up-lights, combination of retrofit and replaced sconces, accent lighting beneath existing flagpoles, adjustable floodlights, and improved overhead lighting in most of the existing building entryways.
Other locations could also support light projectors mounted on setback terraces and roof levels to illuminate prominent features below, including the John D. Rockefeller Credo, the surrounding Channel Gardens, and busy pedestrian spaces along Rockefeller Plaza. Current roof-level lighting can be quite harsh in the evening hours and the architects aim to soften that effect with more fitting light projectors.
The gilded Prometheus fountain sculpture in the Sunken Plaza could receive a host of upgrades including the replacement of existing lighting fixtures with color-changing LEDs both submerged below the waterline and surrounding the fountain.
Arguably, the most interesting upgrades could take shape above the iconic Radio City Music Hall Marquee. At this location, the architects have proposed the installation of surface-mounted LED lights and a discreet metal mesh to increase reflectivity. These additions would be installed behind the façade’s existing metal grilles.
The observation deck marquee at 49 West 49th Street will also be retrofit with new adjustable accent lights to illuminate the ornate stone relief above.
Tishman Speyer, current owner of the Rockefeller Center, has not revealed a timeline for any of the three announced phases of renovation at Rockefeller Center, which will undoubtedly take close to a decade to fully realize. Thus far, the LPC has mostly supported each phase of the proposals with minimal requests for redesigns or modifications.