The Institute for the Study of the Ancient World commissioned Selldorf Architects, previously responsible for the renovation of the Neue Galerie on Fifth Avenue, to restore and upgrade the townhouse at 15 East 85th Street purchased to house the Institute. The house was built in 1899 but altered beyond recognition in 1928 after its purchase by Ogden Mills Reid, editor-in-chief of the New York Herald-Tribune. After the editor’s death, Mrs. Reid sold it to the American Jewish Committee, who used it as their headquarters until its sale to the Leon Levy Foundation, which endowed the creation of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University in 2006.
After restoring the limestone façade, the building was extensively remodeled, rewired, and upgraded to house an academic institution. A four-tiered, steel-structured, rolling-stack library was inserted to house the Institute’s collection. The overall interior effect is in the simple, restrained style Selldorf is known for, preserving the old but giving it an eerily minimalist modern feel. In this case it seems appropriate, as the neutral colours remind us of the sand and stone of the ancient cities of Mesopotamia and the Levant.