Scandinavia House – The Nordic Center in America
58 Park Avenue, Manhattan, New York 10016|
|Architect||James Stewart Polshek of Ennead Architects|
|Website||Scandinavia House: The Nordic Center in America|
Scandinavia House – The Nordic Center in America is the American-Scandinavian Foundation's cultural center at 58 Park Avenue (between East 37th Street and East 38th Street), in Murray Hill, Manhattan, New York, dedicated to preserving the history of the Scandinavian and Nordic countries in the United States through a wide variety of exhibits and programming. This cultural center hosts exhibitions of fine art, design as well as performing arts pieces from Nordic countries. The center also introduces the local population and guests with Scandinavian languages and customs by organizing courses.
The Nordic Center was designed by architect James Stewart Polshek and opened to the public in 2000 with a visit from King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden and their eldest daughter, Princess Victoria, Princess Martha Louise of Norway, and Princess Benedikte of Denmark.
Scandinavia House, located on 58 Park Avenue, Manhattan, was opened in 2000 by the American-Scandinavian Foundation (ASF). The building was the first permanent location of ASF after a decade of moving between several addresses. Construction of the new building cost around $13 million.
According to the ASF website, more than 1.5 million people have visited since then.
The previous Scandinavia House in this location was a 1909 French neoclassical building finished with lime stone. It was owned by Grace Rainey Rogers until her death in 1943. Rogers was an avid philanthropist and an art collector;an auditorium in the Metropolitan Museum of Art was named after her. Her house was built by real estate developer Horace Trumbauer from Philadelphia. His chef designer was the first African American architect, Julian Francis Abele. There are three buildings in New York City designed by this architect. The other two are the James B. Duke House at Fifth Avenue and Adelaide L. T. Douglas home at 57 Park Avenue. Both are landmarks and thus protected by law. However, 58 Park Ave building was not. During the last decades of the 20th century, the house served as the United Nations mission of the German Democratic Republic. ASF bought it together with the plot of land for $5 million in 1996. In order to construct the new and modern Scandinavia House by Polshek Partnership Architects, the old building was destroyed. Unfortunately, there is no legacy left of this important work by Abele.
According to a New York Times article of February 14, 1999, the president of the ASF, Edward P. Gallagher, stated that it was supposed to be a "fully public building". However, the current website of the Scandinavian house puts great emphasis on rental of spaces for private gatherings, weddings, presentations, corporate events and meetings.
The building is designed in the International Style characteristic of the late 1990s to the early 2000s. It was designed by Polshek Partnership Architects (now Ennead Architects). It has 6 floors above the ground and 2 floors below, and is 50 feet wide. The building is detailed in minimalist Scandinavian design; the facade is finished with gray and light blue zinc and glass. Initially, it was supposed to be partly covered with wood, a typical building material from Scandinavia, although this idea was later abandoned.
The aim of the building is to exhibit Scandinavian building materials, technological advancement and open, easy-to-transform space. Scandinavia House includes the 168-seat Victor Borge Hall for performances and lectures, the Heimbold Family Children’s Learning Center, which offers regular programs and activities for children and families, and the Halldór Laxness Library.
The Victor Borge Hall combines the best in Scandinavian design with state-of-the-art technology. It can hold up to 168 seated guests. The hall hosts symposiums, lectures, presentations, concerts, and performances. It is equipped with 35 mm film projectors with Dolby Surround Sound, digital projection capability and digital recording equipment for concerts and presentations.
The F. Donald Kenney Reception Area and Taplin Café is a 2,200 square foot space located on the main level of Scandinavia House, overlooking Park Avenue, that houses restaurant Smörgås Chef. It runs almost the entire length of the main floor, and has an open plan and transparent space. The street-scape can be seen from inside and from street, people can see in the building. It is a common design of late modernism. There is a small gift shop near its entrance which sells Scandinavian design products along with souvenirs and sweets.
Volvo Hall is a bright, dramatic space with glass walls to its east and west overlooking Park Avenue. It has an adjoining garden terrace with quartzite stone and wood details, offers a setting for outdoor receptions and meeting breaks. Volvo Hall can accommodate up to 250 guests for receptions and 120 for seated dining. The hall is used as showroom space, a place for fashion shows, presentation space, and official gatherings. It houses social events and educational programs carried out by ASF. On this floor there is also an outdoor Wallenius terrace for serving guests of the Scandinavian House during summer.
The Stolt-Nielsen, Gundersen, Ginsberg, and Leif Hoegh Galleries offer well-equipped space for exhibitions of the best Scandinavian painting, sculpture, photography, and design. It has 1,800 square foot space with high ceilings and a polished spruce floor, and is used for receptions of up to 150. These galleries have open floor plans along the whole building that allow them to be subdivided.
The Halldór Laxness Library, a meeting space for up to 20 people, is furnished in classic Scandinavian design. Huge windows overlook Park Avenue, offering an excellent vista of New York landmarks. Computers with internet access are available and a small reading area is adjacent to the main part of the room.
The Heimbold Family Children's Playing and Learning Center is a colorful and welcoming space designed to engage children and their families in activities that explore the rich cultural heritage of the Nordic countries.
The Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation Seminar Room is the smallest of the set of conference facilities in the Scandinavia House at 13 by 16 feet.
Scandinavia house has a list of preferred caterers including Smorgas Chef, which manages a full-service restaurant on the main floor. This restaurant operates two more facilities in Wall Street and West Village. These restaurants use ingredients from their own farms, at the Blenheim Hill Farm in Catskills, which has been in operation since the 1740s.
Scandinavian House is under the management of the American-Scandinavian Foundation which was founded by Niels Poulson. Poulson was a Danish-American who owned a successful iron manufacturing company, Pulsen & Eger whose name was later changed to Heckla, after an active Volcano in Iceland. In 1910, he founded ASF (initially known as American Scandinavian Society) which was a publicly funded, non-profit organization. The aim of the organization was to support cultural activities by funding a wide array of fellowships, grants, internships, and published materials. ASF was one of the first non-governmental organizations to promote cultural relations between countries.
The Foundation is governed by a Board of Trustees of individuals from the United States and Scandinavia, representing diverse interests yet linked by personal or professional ties to the Scandinavian countries. The five Nordic Heads of State serve as the organization's patrons - Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, Harald V of Norway, Margrethe II of Denmark, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, and Sauli Ninistö.
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