Archtober Building of the Day #22: Jacob K. Javits Convention Center

Archtober Building of the Day #22
Jacob K. Javits Convention Center
655 West 34th Street
FXFOWLE Epstein

 
© Center for Architecture

© Center for Architecture

Designed by Pei Cobb in the early 1980s, the Jacob K. Javits Center had fallen into a considerable slump in the years following its debut.  Plagued with structural problems, today’s Archtober tour leader and head of the building’s extensive overhaul, Bruce Fowle, began in the Center’s Crystal Palace by showing photos of the space before his firm’s massive undertaking. He highlighted two of the worst features of the original structure – the dirty, impossible to clean glass, and extensive water damage. Almost immediately after opening, large canvas “diapers” were constructed to catch the ever leaking roof, costing the Center nearly one million dollars a year to alleviate the constant influx of water.

 
© Center for Architecture

Bruce Fowle further explained that the original Javits glass was too highly reflective, creating either a problematic glare or a dark, “Darth Vader” appearance. Later, the Audubon Society identified the structure as the #1 bird killing stucture in New York City. To mitigate both the aesthetic and environmental problems with the existing glass, FXFOWLE Epstein reviewed many glass mockups before deciding to apply a “frit” or dot pattern to the panes, reducing the avian death rate by 90% and giving the space a significant solar energy reduction.  Another problem with the old structure was the fact that the original building plan did not include a viable way to clean much of the glass.  As a result, some of the panes went without cleaning for more than twenty-five years. FXFOWLE Epstein solved this problem by installing catwalks throughout most of the Crystal Palace, both inside and outside of the building, so that repairs and cleaning could take place on a regular basis.

As the tour proceeded to the North Concourse, Bruce Fowle pointed out the renovation to the concrete exposures. Cracked and yellowed after years of layering convention signage, FXFOWLE Epstein brought in experts to create a repair formula.  The result was a ceramic material that brightened the concrete but allowed it to retain its original look.


© Center for Architecture

The tour concluded with a behind the scenes look at the new green roof.  As the second largest green roof in the United States, tour participants happily traded a few very windy and drizzly moments for stunning view of the city and its surroundings.  Looking toward the future, FXFOWLE Epstein has partnered with Drexel University to install a climate monitor that measures the roof’s water and soil content, and examines the impact of the roof on the building’s energy load.  Future testing will determine how much FXFOWLE Epstein’s reimagining of the Javits will impact the ambient temperature in the entire neighborhood and possibly serve as a catalyst for green retrofitting for New York City’s future.


© Center for Architecture

Hit the books tomorrow with a visit to New York University’s School of Professional Studies!

Rochelle Thomas received an M.A. in American Studies from Columbia University and is the Membership Assistant at the AIA New York Chapter.