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Miracle on 34th Street

Friday, June 27th, 2014

Images courtesy of Donna Dotan 

With shoppers and tourists bustling through its doors year-round, the flagship Macy’s in Manhattan’s Herald Square can’t exactly close for renovations, which forced architect Kevin Kennon and others who came onboard to get creative. The team was brought on to restore the landmark 1902 building back to its original glory, restoring the flagship’s exterior and entryways.

“These projects are usually done in kind of a hodgepodge fashion, simply because the store is always open.

Unfortunately, over time it can look a little inconsistent,” Kennon says. “What we tried to do was celebrate the idiosyncrasies of the particular façades and entries and vestibules [that had been updated in different phases in the past], but at the same time try to give them a consistent language that was closer to the original condition without necessarily being slavish to it.”

The design team consulted local heritage groups before starting the phased renovation of the National Register-listed complex. Clerestory windows that had long been hidden by granite panels were restored, bringing light and interest to the store’s mezzanine. Inside, the main Broadway street vestibule was clad in bronze, glass, and marble to complement similar touches throughout the store’s interior. An inch-thick layer of decades- old paint was removed, and Kennon and his team used a vibrant custom metal flake paint to return accents to their original bronze color.

“Macy’s itself is now a city icon, and with a building like that you have to recover the essential qualities that made it what it is, [qualities] that might have been lost over the years, plastered or painted over,” Kennon says.

By integrating new multipurpose LED screens throughout the design and adding other updated features as the process moves forward, Kennon hopes not only to restore the store’s historic character, but also to freshen up its look and create a more consistent feel for Macy’s loyal customers. “The real test will be this Thanksgiving when the parade actually stops in front of the new building, which will be illuminated in a different way,” Kennon says. “That image in particular represents what this is all about.”

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