Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Javits Center: Green, Then Gone

"Let's Raze Javits Center (but First Finish Renovations)"
Robin Pogrebin, (Thomas Kaplan contributed reporting) Art & Design, The New York Times (January 22, 2012)

"Part of architecture’s appeal, at least to architects, is posterity: the notion that what they design will last. So it came as something of a shock to the architect Bruce S. Fowle this month when he learned that a building he was renovating is already on death row.

"In his State of the State address on Jan. 4 Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced plans to demolish the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, which Mr. Fowle has been working to repair and redesign for the past six years.

" 'The waste of creative energy, money and material that would result in its being torn down is painful to think about,' Mr. Fowle said during a walk through the center last week. 'When you’re worrying about every detail - trying to do the best you can to make something that represents the city - it’s like having the rug pulled out from under you.'..."

For every Parthenon that's built, there's a lot of buildings that get built for a reason, get used, and get torn down to make way for something else. looks like the Javits Center is in the latter category.

Too Small

"...Mr. Cuomo proposes replacing the Javits Center with private redevelopment that would include housing, hotels and museums, and selling or leasing the state-owned land to developers...."

"...'The day it opened it was outdated and already behind schedule,' he said in an interview with editors and writers for The New York Times last week, 'and other states had built larger facilities.'

"The Javits Center had been considered ripe for renovation almost since it opened in 1986 because it was too small for large trade shows and conventions, and many considered the dark-glass behemoth as an eyesore blocking views of the Hudson River.'..."
(The New York Times)

That 'eyesore' thing isn't a particularly good reason to tear down a building. If the Lemming's memory serves, folks were none-too-impressed with the Eiffel Tower. It was considered an eyesore when it was a tourist attraction at the 1889 Exposition Universelle. Which, despite its name, featured only exhibits from Earth. And that's another topic.

The point is, the Eiffel Tower went from eyesore to icon, and is one of those things you see on advertisements for French tourism. More topics.

A convention center that's not big enough to hold conventions? That's a problem.

Ideas: Good; Not-So-Good; and Green

The article says that government types got the idea to expand the Javits Center (good idea); and "hired a star architecture team" in 2005 to get the job done (not-so-good idea).

Maybe the Lemming's biased, but getting a "star architecture team" seems to make about as much sense as having a team of quarterbacks, or a movie with an 'all-star cast,' directed by the stars. The results could be entertaining: but this is architecture, not a glitteropolis production.

The "star architects" came up with an idea that would only cost about $1,500,000,000. That was in 2006. Their proposal would have been an improvement. Among other things, the available convention floorspace would have gone from under 800,000 square feet to over 1,0000,000,000.

Three governors and a reality check later, the project's cost was projected at around $3,000,000,000. And the project was scrapped.

Sort of. $190,000,000 got spent on the remake that's still going on, with another $150,000,000 to go before it's (supposed to be) completed in 2014.

Maybe it was money well-spent. Swapping out the building's dark glass for a clear variety, and adding a 'green' roof is supposed to boot energy efficiency by 25%. Maybe that's worth the $340,000,000-plus dollars spent, maybe not. The article doesn't say.

Considering that the Javits remake is slated for demolition after it's finished: the efficiency boost will have to save a whole lot of cash to be worthwhile.

"Not Wasted"

"...The state says these efforts have not been wasted, that they will be an important stopgap measure pending completion of a convention space in Queens...."
(The New York Times)

Part of that makes sense, to the Lemming.

Since the existing Javits Center was too small for today's conventions, and since conventions and trade shows are important economically: it made sense to expand the Javits Center. It would probably have made sense to upgrade the windows and add insulation while they were at it.

But a King-Kong-size, all-star, lalapaloozas of a green flapdoodle? Maybe not the best way to spend taxpayers' money.

Of course, the Lemming doesn't have enough information to have a sound opinion about the Javits remake's cost-effectiveness. And, not living anywhere near New York state, is a sort of backseat driver when it comes to offering advice.

Still: $340,000,000?!

Sort-of-related posts:


Brigid said...

I think there's supposed to be a space here: "The New York Times(January 22, 2012)"

Did you change your mind mid-sentence? "folks were none-too-impressed with Eiffel Tower was considered an eyesore when"

What are you doing with the bodies? "when it comes to offing advice."

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian Gill said...


Too right.

Looks like. That, or dropped out quite a bit. Which has happened.

No comment.


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