The Ford Foundation is embarking on a mission-driven renovation of its landmark New York City headquarters, which will modernize the building to bring it up to municipal code while expanding spaces for convening and creating a global center for philanthropy and civil society. Every aspect of the renovation is driven by a desire to advance the foundation’s mission and work, and to make a beloved and iconic building more available to everyone.

Led by the global design firm Gensler, the renovation will preserve the building’s iconic architectural design, and will have no impact on the foundation’s grantmaking. The renovation comes in the wake of a yearlong analysis considering how to best address the building’s outdated systems, barriers to the disabled, and absence of sprinklers. If built today, the building would not meet current NYC building code, and we have no choice but to update it before 2019. When completed, the renovated building will be right-sized for the foundation’s workforce, with more collaborative and open space for staff and increased meeting space for nonprofit organizations and the public.

The Ford Foundation’s headquarters is one of the iconic landmarks of modern architecture in America. Designed by Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates, the building’s plan—including an atrium garden and spaces filled with natural light—marked a departure from the predominant architectural trends of the time. When it opened in 1967, New York Times architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable wrote that the Ford Foundation headquarters is “that rarity, a building aware of its world.” The renovation will preserve the finest qualities of the building’s architectural integrity. The building, made of glass, Corten steel, and granite, occupies a near-perfect square, stretching the width of the block between 42nd and 43rd Streets.

In 1968, Architectural Record called the foundation building “a new kind of urban space.” In 1997, New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the exterior, atrium glass walls, and garden of the foundation headquarters as an official landmark, affirming that the building had stood the test of time.

The renovation

Specific changes as a result of the renovation that will advance the foundation’s mission include:

  • Doubling the space for nonprofit conferences and convening
  • Reducing Ford’s own office footprint by one-third
  • Dedicating two floors on a permanent basis to other nonprofit organizations
  • Creating a new visitor center, an art gallery, and event spaces open to the public
  • Modernizing the workspace to make it more open, flexible, and accessible
  • Reusing existing furniture and materials as much as possible

The renovation will significantly improve the environmental sustainability and cost-efficiency of the building, and aspire to Gold LEED certification. Specific sustainability measures include:

  • Investment in new ceilings, LED lighting, mechanical and ductwork, and cooling plant
  • Harvesting of storm water for cooling systems and irrigation system for the garden court
  • Use of natural daylight to offset electric lighting and reduce overall energy use
  • Enhanced efficiency of all mechanical systems and energy-efficient lighting systems
  • Use of sustainable materials throughout the project, and reuse of existing furniture

$190 million is the cost of the renovation, with the vast majority required to bring the building up to city code by 2019. Environmental systems, egress and life and safety systems, and the interior garden court all must be upgraded to meet modern requirements.

All staff will move out of the building in October 2016 to a swing space. The renovation is expected to be complete in summer 2018.

The Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation is an independent organization working to address inequality and build a future grounded in justice. For more than 85 years, it has supported visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. Today, with an endowment of $16 billion, the foundation has headquarters in New York and 10 regional offices across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

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