An iconic part of New York City’s urban fabric since the 1930s, Rockefeller Center recently underwent a major renovation in a bid to make it more accessible while preserving its art deco integrity. Local firm INC Architecture & Design was responsible for reimagining the interior rink concourse that connects the outdoors to the indoors, including a custom lighting scheme that both complements the architecture’s new interventions and maintains a reverence for its past.
“Our goal was to ‘democratize’ the rink concourse in a meaningful way,” says INC partner and creative director Adam Rolston. In what was previously a “rabbit warren” of extruded rectangles and low ceilings, Rolston and his team opened things up and introduced an arterial system of organically curved walls that “respond and relate to” the boxy insertions that had been layered on over time. Clad in vertical slats of fluted stone plaster with bronze panels, the newly configured volumes instill an obvious sense of flow that effectively “decongested” the concourse. To amplify that new-found sense of openness, portions of the ceiling were removed to expose not only the original 4.8-metre-high concrete beam framework but also a series of skylights that, after being retrofitted and brought to code, once again allow natural light to permeate into the interior.
When it came to the lighting narrative, Rolston was inspired by another NYC landmark — Radio City Music Hall — and installed a continuous 36.8-centimetre- tall cove in fibreglass-reinforced gypsum (GRG) that follows the perimeter of the space. Custom-made by Hyde Park Mouldings, the S-shaped profile hides both LED strips and internal reflectors that cast an uninterrupted and indirect glow. Complementing this is a J-shaped bronze light cove that washes the storefronts, walls and new polished terrazzo flooring (chosen specifically for its ability to reflect light). “It’s a dreamy and beautiful way to light architecture,” says Rolston of the effect. “Downlights illuminate the floor — and people — in a harsh and artificial way. Cove lighting has an element of natural light.”
Throughout, custom pendants and sconces make an appropriately grand statement. Riffing on both Rockefeller Center’s original tiered radial fixtures (manufactured by Edward F. Caldwell & Co.) and the ones found at RCMH, the new stacked-ring pendants have three light sources (recessed up and down, as well as light tape on each circle) that create a warm ambience. In turn, the radiator-style sconces were inspired by the postwar experiments of Swedish industrial designer Hans-Agne Jakobsson and are powered by linear LED elements. Together, they inject a touch of glamour — one that manages to feel modern but still connected to history.
INC Architecture & Design brings new life to Rockefeller Center’s rink concourse.