Rockefeller Center unveils new look in time for its Christmas tree lighting

A guide to the new Rockefeller Center: renovated buildings and new restaurants to discover in time for the Christmas tree lighting on 30 November 2022

Rockefeller center archive photography
An archive image of the Rockefeller Center Flower Plaza and Prometheus statue
(Image credit: Courtesy Tishman Speyer)

The recent revitalisation of Rockefeller Center has drawn visitors from both near and far to its well-honed curation of retail, culinary and design-savvy offerings. 

It’s a revolution that has been quietly happening over the past few years, first with the transformation of a 1930s rooftop space, perched on top of Radio City Music Hall, into Radio Park – a half-acre garden and terrace available for business tenants to use – by the landscape design firm HM White in 2021, followed by the makeover of the lobby in 50 Rockefeller Plaza by the New York design firm Studio Mellone, that was unveiled earlier this year. Even its iconic ice-skating rink enjoyed a new second life as the roller-skating disco, Flipper’s Roller Boogie Palace, during summer 2022.

The new Rockefeller Center: a city within a city

Radio Park at Rockefeller Center

(Image credit: Courtesy HM White)

In the months since, Rockefeller Center’s redevelopment has hurtled into full swing, with the recent opening of several restaurants, bars and eateries that each rekindles the nostalgic glamour of classic New York while exuding the distinctive, thoughtful flair, characteristic of the dining scenes in Williamsburg and Tribeca. Overseen by the real estate developer Tishman Speyer, which has held the keys since 1996, Rockefeller Center has majestically returned to its former glory, and then some.

‘The original vision for Rockefeller Center was as a “city within a city”. We’ve built on that vision to make the center the most dynamic destination for New Yorkers right now and for generations to come,’ says Rob Speyer, Tishman Speyer’s CEO. ‘Our goal is to ensure Rock Center is the place New Yorkers think of when they want an extraordinary meal, a fun day with family, a lovely place to shop for themselves or loved ones, or an after-work drink with a colleague.’

Rockefeller center archive photography

An archive image of the Rockefeller Center Lower Plaza

(Image credit: Edward Ratcliff, courtesy Tishman Speyer)

‘All the architectural restoration and new design work has been done in a way that honours the center’s history, with an eye towards being as welcoming and comfortable as possible, and giving it a contemporary sensibility,’ he continues. ‘We've welcomed some of the city's most talented, creative teams in food and drink, retail, art, and design – small operators who are now making the leap from Crown Heights, or Tribeca, or Greenpoint, to one of the most dynamic campuses in the country. We couldn't be prouder. The center is the city's best place for New Yorkers, by New Yorkers – and you can feel it everywhere you go.’

Discover more about the revamped complex below, in time for the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting on 30 November 2022.

ROCKEFELLER CENTER: A WALLPAPER* GUIDE

Rockefeller Center skating rink level redesign

Ice Rink at Rockefeller Center

(Image credit: Stephen Kent Johnson, courtesy of Tishman-Speyer)

The power of the Rockefeller Center revamp is especially palpable on the newly redone rink level, which used to be a winding, nondescript concourse that even seasoned locals would get lost in. Speyer says, ‘On the Rink Level, we were focused on democratising the space, restoring the original vision – that someone could walk the full circumference of the rink and easily find their way around.’

Designed by INC Architecture and Design, its new iteration features multiple views to the plaza’s famous ice skating rink, nods to Rockefeller Center’s design heritage, which now continues below ground in the form of fluted limestone plaster and charcoal terrazzo, custom-designed lighting reminiscent of the radial lighted vaults of Radio City Music Hall, and most notably, floods of natural light.

Ice rink level at Rockefeller Center

(Image credit: Stephen Kent Johnson, courtesy of Tishman Speyer)

‘The new open plan of the rink level has a poetic element in addition to the practical,’ says Adam Rolston, INC’s founding partner, and creative and managing director. ‘Its shape was inspired by the elliptical plan of the Elgin Botanic Garden that existed on the site in the 1800s.’

He adds, ‘[We found] the detailing and materiality needed to meaningfully connect the new with the old [in] the 30 Rock lobby. Raymond Hood’s heroic design influence on that lobby was our starting point. We forensically studied the original detailing, proportions, and architectural forms, such as the flowing and curvaceous horizontal lines and rich materials like limestone, black terrazzo, bronze, and glass, [and then] reinterpreted them for their practicality and poetry.’

Rockefeller Center restaurants

Le Rock entrance at Rockefeller Center

The Story of Mankind mural on the façade of the International Building, home to Le Rock restaurant

(Image credit: Courtesy Le Rock)

Under an intentionally exposed ceiling, which adds height and volume to the previously compressed spaces, the reimagined rink level ushers in a new era of merriment this month with the openings of Naro, a contemporary restaurant serving elevated Korean cuisine, and Jupiter, an all-day Italian eatery, dedicated to pasta and wine, in addition to a flurry of new gastronomic destinations.

With options from coffees to cocktails, bar snacks to escargots, all within arm’s reach, the transformation of Rockefeller Center is likely to win over even the most opinionated of New Yorkers.

Naro

Naro restaurant at Rockefeller Center

(Image credit: Charissa Fay)

From the minds of Jungyun ‘JP’ and Ellia Park, the husband-and-wife duo behind the redefining Korean restaurants, Atomix, and Atoboy (both located in New York City), Naro casts traditional Korean cuisine through a contemporary lens. Named after South Korea’s first-ever space launch, the forward-thinking restaurant leans on hansik, a Korean culinary tradition grounded in hyper-seasonality, while incorporating long-held techniques like fermentation, preservation, jangs and sauces. 

This retrofuturism extends to the restaurant’s interior, which is designed by the South Korean practice Studio Writers, which sourced ceramics, artwork and furniture from Korean and Korean-American makers, to fill the space. The light, white-toned interior is juxtaposed by metal and dark wood accents, while nods to Korean heritage infuse every detail. In the main dining room, guests dine beneath a modern iteration of a celestial map from the 17th century, that depicts the 24 Korean seasons, from which the menu is also derived.  

 Jupiter

Jupiter restaurant at Rockefeller Center

(Image credit: Marcus Nilsson)

Jupiter is the latest enterprise from chefs Jess Shadbolt and Clare de Boer, the forces behind the Soho eatery, King, who also enlisted a former colleague, Gaz Herbert of The River Café in London to join them in creating their dream Italian. Their pasta-centric menu is an indulgent complement to the cinematic interiors that the design firm Workstead created. Informed by Shadbolt’s and de Boer’s own cherished dining experiences, Workstead’s concept focuses on the idea of sprezzatura, an Italian term denoting an appearance of casualness that conceals the utmost care. 

‘The chefs shared how they felt most invigorated and socially at ease in dining rooms that were somehow unprecious, which led us to this Italian term,’ recalls Stefanie Brechbeuler, a partner and also Workstead’s director of special projects. ‘This 16th-century term describes the feeling within the dining room at Jupiter, as well as the menu, made up of seemingly improvisational responses to seasonal ingredients, which in fact draw upon a deep reserve of world-class training.

With a variety of seating vignettes – including a private dining room concealed behind a series of seductive alcoves – orbiting around the energy of an open kitchen, Jupiter casually mixes stylistic references for a fresh and unexpected result. Brechbeuler adds, ‘The bar is one of these juxtapositions; a long marble bar set against a stainless steel backdrop with sightlines to the kitchen beyond.’

Five Acres, Le Rock and more

Le Rock restaurant at Rockefeller Center

(Image credit: Courtesy of Le Rock)

With a third rink-level restaurant, Five Acres, which touts a farm-to-table menu and has also been designed by INC, set to open in the coming weeks, Rockefeller Center solidifies itself as a worthy dining destination in the Big Apple. This trio joins Le Rock, an elegant, art deco-inspired French brasserie from the team behind Frenchette in Tribeca, designed by Workstead; Lodi, chef Ignacio Mattos’ version of an Italian aperitivo bar and bakery; and Pebble Bar, an exquisite watering hole designed by Gachot Studios, located in a historic townhouse known for its eccentric music and broadcasting industry regulars back in the day. 

Pei-Ru Keh is the US Editor at Wallpaper*. Born and raised in Singapore, she has been a New Yorker since 2013. Pei-Ru has held various titles at Wallpaper* since she joined in 2007. She currently reports on design, art, architecture, fashion, beauty and lifestyle happenings in the United States, both in print and digitally. Pei-Ru has taken a key role in championing diversity and representation within Wallpaper's content pillars and actively seeks out stories that reflect a wide range of perspectives. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, and is currently learning how to drive.