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Jacob Javits Center Expansion

by Gates Merkulova Architects
Hudson River, New York, New York, USA

In 1986, after many years of on-and-off development, I.M. Pei’s Jacob Javits Center finally opened, to mixed reviews. Because of competition from other cities that had completed their own, larger convention centers in the interim, an expansion to Javits was soon contemplated. The possibilities for expansion, however, were limited by congested site conditions, little public support and financing issues. Several expansion projects were nonetheless proposed, all of them compromised. The existing building does not exploit its relationship to the adjacent Hudson River. The interior is gloomy and offers no experience of the spectacular water views, except from one remote hall. The possibility of expanding to the west has been precluded by the 1985 demise of the Westway project which included an enormous land-fill extension of Manhattan Island into the Hudson. While we do not support anything like the originally proposed large-scale continuous commercial development, we believe that there is a place along the river for singular public buildings that could be built with environmentally innovative methods and would provide a foreground to the dense urban mass of the island. Our proposal is to float an expansion of the Javits Center in the river on a pontoon raft. The new structure, connected to the existing building by dramatic gangways bridging the West Side Highway, will be ringed by a public walkway and bordered by a park to the south. This new building will add 500,000 SF of space, making it one of the largest convention centers in the country. The pontoon will have the capability of generating energy from the tidal flow of the river. The new hall, supported by a field of splayed columns, will have a sinuous, translucent roof designed to capture and diffuse the unique river light. Two gangways, one for service and one for pedestrians, will connect the new hall to the existing Center and extend the circulation spine to form an integrated yet flexible complex.