Built from 1867-1899, the New York State Capitol in Albany is a National Historic Landmark. Thomas Fuller originally designed the Capitol, but in 1875, H.H. Richardson and Leopold Eidlitz were recruited to complete the building. Richardson concentrated on the west and south sides while Eidlitz designed the east and north sides including the Gothic Revival Assembly Chamber and the Assembly Parlor, two of the most important nineteenth century interiors in the United States.
During the second half of the 20th century, pressure for office space, modern environmental systems, and changes in architectural sensibility caused many unfortunate changes. Walls were furred out and dropped ceilings built to accommodate HVAC and lighting. Mezzanines were built under soaring vaults to provide offices and arched doorways were blocked. The Viewing Galleries, built for the public to observe Assembly proceedings, were walled off from the Chamber and used for offices and copy rooms. The Assembly Chamber windows were fitted with milky glass, making it impossible to see out. The building became introverted and uninviting to the public and the Assembly Chamber lost its views of the city of Albany.
Hierarchical progressions, fostered symmetries, orientation to city views and natural light and air are significant features of this late 19th century building and the ill considered mid 20th century alterations had profoundly undermined the clarity and beauty of the spaces. Our focus in all the projects we designed in the building was to reassert the building's fundamental qualities.
In Phase 1, Françoise Bollack Architects opened the East Lobby to the Chamber and altered the East Vestibule to includes a ramp for accessibility and additional lighting. The scheme uses an "inner core" defined by a new gothic stone balustrade around which the ramp rises. New bronze torcheres are located at the four corners of the balustrade and designed to be sympathetic with the building's historic light fixtures. The increased level of lighting in the vestibule heightens the drama and the effectiveness of the existing monumental Gothic arch, which frames the lighted vestibule.
This intervention fits seamlessly in the existing context, functionally and aesthetically.
American Institute of Architects: Award of Merit, 2003.
Capitol Improvements" by Ned Depew; Berkshire Home & Style