Helpern Architects


For over six months, Helpern Architects has worked as the planning advisors for Unite to Save the Frick [USF], a coalition of organizations and individuals, largely architects, landscape architects and garden designers, preservationists, civic leaders, architectural and art historians, and artists.

USF formed because New York City’s Frick Collection had announced a major expansion that included a 106-ft-high tower that would replace the beloved garden designed by Russell Page [1977], and rise over the museum’s original building, the former Frick residence by Carrère & Hastings [1914].

The coalition mounted a year-long campaign to show that the Frick could “modernize without destroying the intimate residential scale of its galleries and destroying essential elements of its landmarked architectural and landscape ensemble.” Part of that fact-gathering and advocacy was to hire Helpern Architects to create a planning study to explore this possibility.

For Unite to Save the Frick’s news release announcing the publication of the Helpern conceptual plans, go here. For the conceptual plans themselves, which appear on the USF website, go here. For the Helpern project description, go here.

According to Stephen Kass, the attorney for Unite to Save the Frick who co-directs the Carter Ledyard & Milburn Environmental Practice Group, “USF wanted to provide a viable alternative. Helpern Architects was its immediate choice to do that conceptual design, because of its ability to preserve and also modernize great historic properties, make use of overlooked and underutilized space, and, equally useful, present the design concept compellingly.”

David Helpern worked closely with USF leaders as they sought input from architects, landscape architects, preservationists, decision-makers, and community allies. In the wake of broad criticism, on June 3rd the Frick’s Board of Directors withdrew the proposed scheme, though it still intends to present a revised plan in the near future.

On July 14th, the Architect’s Newspaper, a regional and national publication about architecture and design, exclusively published on line the Helpern conceptual plans and renderings.

Of Helpern Architects’ alternative plan, David explains, “Although we were working without benefit of either the current floor plans or the program, we had the help of an informed client group as well as excellent engineering consultants. Our concept respects what is sacred and rearranges what is available to change. We have reorganized the flow and functionality of the complex, adding links and amenities beyond what the Frick thought the site could accommodate. In short, we were able to greatly improve on what the Frick had put forth – as well as save the garden and avoid visible major construction.”

David further stated that, “It would be excellent if everyone came out of this conflict with what they want. From our perspective, it can be achieved. It has been our privilege to be Unite to Save the Frick’s trusted architect and diplomat.”