First Look: Nobu's Designs for Majestic Landmark Interior on Lower Broadway

Rendering of the Nobu bar floor, to be located in a portion of the marble-clad former lobby of 195 Broadway. A proposed sculpture, inspired by Japanese calligraphy, hangs above the circular bar at left. The main restaurant will be located on the floor below. Rendering: RockwellGroup via The Tribeca Trib 

Aug. 09, 2016

Along with the lobster with wasabi pepper sauce and yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño, a sweeping “brushstroke” will be among the signature features of Nobu early next year when the Tribeca restaurant, the flagship of the chain, relocates to the majestic former lobby of 195 Broadway.

The hanging, stained-wood sculpture, inspired by Japanese calligraphy, is hundreds of running feet in length and will swirl above a circular bar in the center of Nobu’s ground-floor space, its “strokes” trailing down a stairway that leads to the main dining room on the lower level.

Proposed plans for the sculpture, by John Houshmand, were shown on Aug. 4 to Community Board 1’s Landmarks Committee. Because the work was not included in the approved master plan for the designated interior landmark, it needs Landmarks Commission approval, and an advisory opinion from CB1. (Rope tapestries to hang in the space’s 11-foot-high windows and interior glass partitions—more tapestries than had originally been approved—are also part of the Landmarks application.)

Like Tribeca’s Nobu at 105 Hudson St., the new interior design is by David Rockwell and the Rockwell Group.

“We wanted a feature that would bring you into the space and also draw you downstairs to the restaurant below,” Michael McNeil, a Rockwell Group architect, explained to the committee about the sculpture. “Our only presence essentially for the main dining portion is that stairwell. So the point is to have a wayfinding device that will pull you downstairs.”

The application to the Landmarks Commission provides a first look at how the restaurant will be integrated into the Greek-inspired lobby, with its 40 Doric-style columns that rise to a 35-foot-high ceiling. Nobu will be one of three commercial tenants in the 44,600-square-foot section of the lobby that is being redeveloped by the building’s owner, L & L Holding Co. Patrons will enter the restaurant from an interior galleria that runs the length of the building, from Fulton to Dey Streets.

The commercial spaces are separated by 30-foot-high glass partitions intended to maintain the grandeur of a lobby that the Landmarks Commission has described as “one of the great monumental classical interiors in New York City.” The former AT&T building, built in phases between 1912 and 1922, is itself a landmark.

CB1’s Landmarks Committee was split on whether the sculpture was a fitting addition to the grand interior, but voted its approval.

“While I appreciate the sculpture, I think it’s in complete dissonance to what that designated landmark space is,” said committee co-chair Bruce Ehrmann. “When I look at these [renderings], it’s not about what is designated. It’s slashing.”

Committee member Vera Sung called the sculpture “quite beautiful” but asked if it could “not be so invasive,” suggesting that it might be scaled back by not continuing down the stairs.

But committee chair Roger Byrom lauded the work, saying it “put some character into the space.”

“You can understand that Nobu would want some feature,” Byrom said. “This is a very appropriate feature and its impact on the landmark is minimal.”