TOUR // Midtown West to Roosevelt Island

Ford Foundation – Austrian Cultural Forum – Modulightor Building & Paul Rudolph Foundation – Franklin Roosevelt Four Freedom Park


Tour Map

9:45 am Ford Foundation


Our tour started at the Ford Foundation atrium on 42nd and 2nd Ave, which is an office building designed by architect Kevin Roche. The building has a very large tree-filled atrium, which was one of the first examples during the 60s when it was designed and built. The atrium of the Ford Foundation is widely credited as being the precedent for indoor public spaces in Manhattan office buildings. After discussing the main mission of the foundation and architectural characteristics of the building, we walked around the atrium of the building to sketch and take photos.


As a continuation on a theme about architectural sites with public spaces, we passed by the Seagram building, which is another example of an open urban public space. It became a very popular gathering area and an influential building that provoked the idea of “privately owned public spaces”.




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11:00 am Austrian Cultural Forum New York (ACFNY)


ACFNY is the the cultural embassy of Austria in the United States. The building is designed by Raimund Abraham and we were interested in it as a studio because it occupies the diminutive (25′ X 81′) site, and houses an impressive amount of program such as: exhibition galleries; a flexible theater for performances, screenings, and lectures; a library; loft-like presentation areas and seminar rooms; reception and meeting spaces; staff offices; a multi-level residence for the Forum’s director; and open-air loggia at the tower’s pinnacle.


We were very lucky to have a tour from Susanne Kirchgasser, the Head of the Library. She explained to us about the various events and showcases the organization holds relating to Austrian contemporary art, music, literature, and academic. Susanne answered our questions about future plans they had for the library as well as the building itself. She generously shared her opinion about areas in the architecture of the building that could be improved, as well as the strength of the building. To make our tour even better Susanne gave each of us a book about the Austrian cultural center with great drawings and another book for the tour guides of the day.


Since we had a little time before our next tour, we went back to the Seagram building to see the “Four Season” restaurant designed by Philip Johnson and the “Brasserie” by Diller Scofidio and ‘checked out’ their menu in order to see the space inside.




Credit: Rocio Santo-Tomas

Assigned readings


1:00 pm Modulightor


MODULIGHTOR is designed by Paul Rudolph and makes customized light fixtures for interior designers, architects, and lighting designers. We had an incredible tour with the owner, Ernst Wagner, who was a long time friend of Paul Rudolph. He showed us the residential part of the MODULIGHTOR building, which is the space where he lives now. The interior design of the house is incredibly sophisticated and inspiring in its very convincing way of using cantilevered steps that dissolve into the precise geometries of the built-in bookshelves and furniture. The density of collections of various types displayed on built-in furnitures reminded us of a modern version of the Soane Museum in London. We watched a movie about Paul Rudolph, heard lots of stories from Ernst Wagner and spent an amazing time in his house.


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Credit: Rocio Santo- Tomas


3:00 pm Aerial Tram to Roosevelt Island


As we left the Modulightor building it started to rain. However, that fact didn’t prevent us from following our plan to take the aerial tram to Roosevelt Island as our final destination for the tour was The Franklin Roosevelt Four Freedom Park designed by Louis Khan. A deceptively simple compostion, the memorial park is truly representative of Kahn’s style. 

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