New York, NY


CetraRuddy Announces New Honors for Fotografiska New York Museum, Building on Legacy of Landmark Works

By Alex_A_G
Jan 14, '21 12:08 PM EST
Fotografiska New York (Image Credit: David Sundberg/Esto)
Fotografiska New York (Image Credit: David Sundberg/Esto)

Underscoring its commitment to creatively preserving architectural heritage for new purposes and future generations, the global architecture, planning and interior design firm CetraRuddy has announced important recognition for its design of the museum Fotografiska New York. The new plaudits include a major preservation award and honors from several prestigious design award programs, as CetraRuddy continues its longstanding dedication to adaptive reuse and as the landmark Fotografiska building celebrates its first anniversary as a contemporary cultural destination.

According to CetraRuddy’s leadership, the honors for Fotografiska New York are highlighted by a Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award, which was announced this fall by the New York Landmarks Conservancy. These influential awards are given to "projects that demonstrate excellence in the restoration, preservation, or adaptive use of historic buildings, streetscapes, and landscapes that preserve commercial, residential, institutional, religious, and public buildings,” according to the Conservancy, one of the country’s leading organizations supporting historic preservation. The awards jury praised the Fotografiska project for its “thoughtful restoration and adaptive reuse,” which “revitalized these historic buildings and created new opportunities for the public to experience them."  In addition, this past fall CetraRuddy’s design for Fotografiska New York received a Design Award of Citation from the American Institute of Architects New York State chapter (AIANYS), and was recently named a 2020 winner of the international Architecture MasterPrize in the Restoration & Renovation category, as well as a New York Design Award of Excellence winner in the Society of American Registered Architects New York chapter (SARA NY) Design Awards.

As the first U.S. location for international photography organization Fotografiska, Fotografiska New York reinvigorates a historic landmark former church mission building at 281 Park Avenue South in Manhattan, inviting visitors into the 40,655-square-foot cultural venue with world-class photography exhibitions, restaurants, and culturally eclectic event programming. CetraRuddy collaborated on the extensive renovations, which debuted in December 2019, with preservation consultants Higgins Quasebarth & Partners. The result is a welcoming visitor experience, three floors of new exhibition space, and a versatile event venue on the top floor with vaulted ceilings and skylights. 

“Fotografiska New York encapsulates our approach to historic adaptive reuse, which is about respecting the original building and helping people find joy in its authenticity and new purpose,” says CetraRuddy principal Theresa M. Genovese, AIA. “We stabilized the original structure and created innovative, flexible gallery spaces inside, while minimally impacting the building’s character and finding exciting ways to let that character shine through. We’re proud of newly foregrounded historic elements such as an original stained-glass window long hidden behind mechanical equipment, and now center stage in one of Fotografiska’s restaurant spaces.”

With this spirit of honoring historic architecture, the recent recognition for CetraRuddy’s work at Fotografiska New York also builds on the firm’s decades-long legacy of adaptive reuse initiatives that enable iconic buildings to take on fresh uses for new generations. CetraRuddy is widely known for its diversity of new construction projects including high-rise towers that help define the Manhattan skyline, rooftop restaurants across the United Kingdom, and schools in locales ranging from New York’s Staten Island to Calicut, India. Yet the firm has also built a portfolio of major works converting historic former commercial and industrial buildings into residential, mixed-use, and cultural and hospitality destinations. In New York City and the surrounding metropolitan area, CetraRuddy’s adaptive reuse projects are often seen as an architectural dialogue across generations, with the firm adapting, restoring, and reimagining iconic buildings by many of the country’s most influential 19th and 20th-Century architects, including Ralph Walker, Rosario Candela, Ernest Flagg, and Charles Haight. 

Projects such as Walker Tower, CetraRuddy’s conversion of a former Manhattan telephone exchange building into condominiums, helped spur the Chelsea neighborhood’s growth as a residential hub, and cemented the high-end New York real estate market’s interest in high-profile historic adaptive reuse and the preservation of historic landmarks. Notably, Walker Tower also led to a renewed awareness of the building’s original architect, Ralph Walker; CetraRuddy is now the only firm to have restored and converted multiple Ralph Walker buildings, including Stella Tower in New York and Walker House in Newark, New Jersey. 

CetraRuddy’s work has also launched the benefits of historic adaptive reuse onto the national and global stage. 443 Greenwich, the conversion of a landmarked 1880s book bindery in Manhattan’s Tribeca into 53 luxury homes, garnered acclaim and media interest as the building of choice for numerous A-list celebrities, drawn to the privacy benefits found in a restored industrial building – including an underground garage accessed through original wrought-iron gates, and a 5,000-square-foot private interior courtyard. 

Similarly, CetraRuddy’s conversion of large-scale commercial office buildings into rental apartment communities has led to renewed vitality in many urban neighborhoods, most notably in Manhattan’s Financial District. Long seen as a workday-only zone, the area has recently emerged as a residential and leisure destination thanks in large part to creative adaptive reuse work such as CetraRuddy’s 20 Broad project, a Midcentury office building once part of the New York Stock Exchange complex and now home to 535 rental apartments. Just blocks away, CetraRuddy’s 180 Water conversion reimagines another office tower as a 574-unit rental community, solidifying the Financial District’s new identity while preserving its architectural character.

For leading restaurant and hospitality brands, too, CetraRuddy has proven the differentiating value of locating within an adapted historic property. The firm’s design for Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill, in Brooklyn’s hip DUMBO neighborhood, leveraged the building’s unique past as a Civil War-era landmark cargo warehouse to celebrate the Miami-based Sugarcane brand’s focus on diverse culinary traditions. Patrons were also drawn to the atmospheric space’s distinctive 200-year-old schist walls, centuries-old wood rafters, and monumental arched window openings overlooking the East River and Brooklyn Bridge.

Recognition for this design sensibility and thoughtful adaptive reuse work, in the form of significant honors for Fotografiska New York, is particularly meaningful for firm leaders including cofounding principal John Cetra, FAIA, a lifelong New Yorker and a student of the city’s history. “In cities like New York where there's constant change and evolution, adaptive reuse has played an important role in maintaining the vitality and character that turns a given neighborhood into a destination,“ says Cetra, who is also a noted international expert on urban living, writing and presenting nationally on topics related to adaptive reuse. “In our role as architects, sensitivity to context and neighborhood fabric, and to the unique features of these buildings is crucial. Our goal is to sensitively fuse historic character with modern life, and to build on a community’s architectural history while contributing to its success in the present and the future.”