The homepage for New York City's Four Seasons Restaurant doesn't sugar-coat its closing: "151 days left to party in the restaurant Zagat called 'Manhattan's most iconic.' " Opened in 1959, the restaurant that Philip Johnson designed in the Seagram Building, which he designed with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, is admired for its architecture (ARCHITECT columnist Aaron Betsky wrote that it "sports two of the most beautiful rooms in New York.") as well as a power lunch you dress up for.
Today, the James Beard Foundation, which already bestows annual awards for restaurant design, announced that the Four Seasons Restaurant is the first recipient of a new prize, the Design Icon Restaurant Award. The foundation explains in a press release: "The Foundation has established this award in order to recognize restaurants in the United States that serve as national standard bearers of outstanding design and design innovation. In order to qualify, a restaurant’s design must have remained unchanged for at least 20 years and must have influenced and inspired the design of subsequent restaurants. Additionally, the restaurant must still be in operation." The foundation also has a personal connection to this restaurant, since its namesake, cookbook author James Beard, was a consultant on the restaurant's menu.
The lease with the current owners, Julian Niccolini and Alex von Bidder, is up this July, according to an article last year in The New York Times, and the space will be turned over to New York's Major Food Group, which runs other restaurants in the city. The Times reported that the new team, which also includes the building's owner Aby Rosen, intends "to return the space to the glory of its 1959 debut, not to dismantle or alter rooms that are already protected by landmark status." Last May, the city's Landmarks Commission rejected some modifications that Rosen proposed for the interior. Crain's New York Business reported in December that Rosen launched a campaign to raise $30 million for the new restaurant.
The Four Seasons Restaurant will be recognized at the James Beard Awards Gala on May 2 in Chicago, and the award will be given to Niccolini and von Bidder and then handed off to the new restaurant.