Time has a way of making changes that often need to be undone, as at Tavern on the Green, the iconic restaurant near Central Park’s Sheep Meadow. Its original Victorian Gothic building – a 19th-century sheepfold designed by Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mould – was renovated and added onto numerous times between the restaurant’s opening in 1934 and its closing in 2009. A call by the city to reopen Tavern on the Green as a high-quality casual restaurant and outdoor café provided the opportunity to undo the damages done to the landmark building and its landscape.
RKLA developed guidelines that would respect the original building and create a harmonious fit between it and its surroundings. Design efforts focused primarily on the courtyard, where new stone paving echoes the original, new trees were positioned to navigate the restaurant’s myriad, below-grade infrastructure, and low plants enclose the east end of the space to ensure park views. At the Entry Garden and Take-out Terrace, native plantings were selected for sustainability, while in the Bar Terrace, plantings such as pear trees and herbs were featured that parallel the restaurant’s mission.
RKLA worked in collaboration with NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, Central Park Conservancy, and the client, Emerald Green Group, to gain approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Public Design Commission in 2013 for the design of the historic 1.7-acre site. Tavern on the Green reopened to wide acclaim the following year, and in 2015 it won a Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award, the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s highest honor.
Richard H. Lewis Architect - Restaurant Architect
Swanke Hayden Connell Architects - Building Restoration Architect