Researching the Room

Documents with images of furniture, blueprints, and archival photos of the room laid out on a table.
Primary documentation related to the Wormser bedroom

Clues in blueprints, photographs, design sketches, invoices, and recorded interviews came together to unlock the story of this modern masterpiece.

Our team began by carefully examining all primary documentation about the bedroom, Joseph Urban, and the Wormser family. We consulted photographs of the bedroom taken just after its completion in 1930, a blueprint of the Drake Tower’s 27th floor, invoices, previously recorded interviews with Elaine Wormser Reis, and related design sketches and images from the Joseph Urban Archive at the Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Paired with the room’s remaining original objects, this information formed our basic understanding of the space and of Urban’s vision for the commission.

A woman and a man, with their backs to the camera, compare Elaine Wormser’s bed and a reproduction of her curtains to an enlarged archival photograph of her room held by the woman.
Amy Dehan and R. Mark Adams with bed and curtain mock-up, February 2020.
Photography by Erin Geideman

Urban created the Wormser Bedroom as a total work of art, a Gesamtkunstwerk. It was clear that, to communicate this concept along with the room’s rich and varied narratives, the museum needed to present this collection in a constructed space that re-created the original bedroom and its atmosphere as accurately as possible.