Four Seasons Restaurant in New York wins inaugural design icon award from James Beard Foundation

by Kim Megson | 02 Mar 2016

The James Beard Foundation – which celebrates America's culinary heritage – has launched a ‘Design Icon Restaurant Award’, with the inaugural winner announced today (2 March) as the Four Seasons Restaurant in New York.

The special award has been established to recognise restaurants in the US “that serve as national standard bearers of outstanding design and design innovation.”

In order to qualify, a restaurant’s design must have remained unchanged for at least 20 years and must have influenced and inspired the design of subsequent restaurants.

“It’s an honour to award The Four Seasons Restaurant the first ever James Beard Foundation Design Icon Award,” said James Biber, chair of the Restaurant Design Awards Committee and founder of Biber Architects. “In introducing generations of diners to modern elegance and luxury, The Four Seasons forever changed restaurant design, even as it remained virtually unchanged itself.”

The restaurant, which opened in 1959, was designed by Philip Johnson and building architect Mies van der Rohe to be as luxurious and modern as possible. Over the years it has exhibited rotating galleries of modern art, including a Picasso stage curtain from a 1919 French production of the ballet Le Tricorne, and works by Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, Jackson Pollock and Joán Miró.

Today the Museum of Modern Art in New York features more than 100 of the restaurant’s elements in its permanent design collection.

“We are deeply humbled to be the recipients of this award and grateful to have spent so many years in such a beautiful restaurant,” said current owners Julian Niccolini and Alex von Bidder. “James Beard was one of The Four Seasons’ greatest champions when it opened back in 1959, and we’re honoured to see that come full circle by accepting this great honour in his name.”

On Tuesday, 15 March 2016, the Foundation will announce the final nominees for all award categories ahead of a gala in Chicago on 2 May. The annual ceremony was described by Biber as “the Oscars for restaurants.”

James Beard was a cookbook author and teacher famous for his encyclopaedic knowledge of food.

The foundation has operated since his death in 1985, running educational initiatives, food industry awards, scholarships for culinary students and maintaining the James Beard House in New York’s Greenwich Village as a “performance space” for visiting chefs.

Four Seasons Restaurant  New York  design  design icon award  James Beard Foundation  architecture 
The James Beard Foundation – which celebrates America's culinary heritage – has launched a ‘Design Icon Restaurant Award’, with the inaugural winner announced today (2 March) as the Four Seasons Restaurant in New York. The special award has been established to recognise restaurants in the US “that serve as national standard bearers of outstanding design and design innovation.” In order to qualify, a restaurant’s design must have remained unchanged for
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The restaurant was praised for influencing and inspiring the design of subsequent restaurants
 / Jennifer Calais Smith
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