Case Study 2: Gramercy Hotel roof garden, New York

The brief: To create a private roof terrace for guests and members of the Gramercy Park Hotel, that can be accessed via a special, private keyed-off elevator in the hotel, and is – while open to the elements all year round – luxuriously comfortable at all


Client: Entities controlled by Ian Schrager, Aby Rosen and Michael Fuchs
Management: GPH Management LLC
Concept and art direction: Julian Schnabel
Director of development: Michael Overington
Director of design and architecture: Anda Andrei
Art installations: Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Damien Hirst, Richard Prince and Julian Schnabel
Photography curator: Leslie Simitch
Graphic art direction: Baron & Baron: Fabien Baron, Joseph Logan and Lisa Atkin
Lighting design: Arnold Chan and Clark Johnson
Landscape design: Madison Cox
Address: 2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010
Originally built: 1924


The brief: To create a private roof terrace for guests and members of the Gramercy Park Hotel, that can be accessed via a special, private keyed-off elevator in the hotel, and is – while open to the elements all year round – luxuriously comfortable at all times.


With the predictable hype and hysteria of any new Ian Schrager venture, when Gramercy Park Hotel opened in 2006 it became one of the hottest destinations in Manhattan overnight. Which was great, of course, but as a result it was decided that the guests of the hotel ought to have a few more privileges than were currently being afforded over and above the casual visitor. (Guests currently all have their own key to Gramercy Park – the only private park in the city – among other perks.)


The decision was taken to create a private roof terrace for guests and members, to be accessed via a private, keyed-off elevator in the hotel. Akin to a private salon or drawing room, offering personal comfort and the intimacy of a private home, the idea was to create a more exclusive version of ‘the lobby as a new kind of gathering place’, as introduced by Schrager almost 20 years ago.


In some ways, the project was simply a case of extending the idiosyncratic, eclectic vision applied throughout the rest of the hotel, and for which the Schrager design team is already well known. But the Gramercy Park roof garden came with its own challenges – it is the first roof garden in New York, as well as the first that the company has ever completed, that is to remain open (and luxuriously comfortable) all year round.


Anyone who knows the weather in New York will know this puts a few restraints on things. ‘New York is not a tropical city,’ explains designer Anda Andrei of the Ian Schrager Company. ‘It snows very heavily here in winter and can get really hot in summer. When it rains, it really rains – the climate can be extreme.’


The terrace is 16 storeys above Manhattan and Andrei’s solution was to build a retractable roof over the garden. The walls too, can be opened out on every side. After looking at a lot of systems, Andrei found one that would provide enough heating and air conditioning to ensure that the temperature would always be under control.


The terrace also needed to work both as an indoor and outdoor space. To achieve this, says Andrei, ‘We wanted to make the architecture disappear. When you are designing plans, less is more. But when you are designing a landscape, more is definitely more. You cannot have too many flowers.’ Andrei worked with landscape designer Madison Cox to achieve the right look. ‘Once the lush landscape came about, everything else just fell into place,’ she says.


The Bohemian results now recall the celebrated roof-top garden life popularised at the turn of the century in New York City at places such as Ziegfeld’s Club at the New Amsterdam Theatre, Stanford White’s rooftop garden at the original Madison Square Garden, the Astor Hotel in Times Square and Condé Nast’s famous parties on the roof of his extravagant penthouse.


Artist Julian Schnabel’s vivid colour palette of Renaissance colors, as well as custom furniture, fittings and installations all continue the theme already established in the rest of the hotel – though with one major difference in the criteria: because everything had to be craned to the top of the roof to install it, slight size restrictions needed to be imposed.


The artworks include pieces by Damien Hirst and Andy Warhol. Andrei explains his choice, ‘As the area is more private, we can have the best,’ she says. The chandelier, which fills the entire ceiling in one of the indoor spaces was, apparently, quite simple to install. ‘A lot of the most simple ideas are the most magical,’ she says. ‘And the most fun to do.’



Roof garden completed: August 2007


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