I love old maps like that. But as for this building, I think it's one of the worst in the city. It has no class next to the old greats of the Civic Center.
Jacob K. Javits Federal Building
26 Federal Plaza
Alfred Easton Poor, Kahn & Jacobs, Eggers & Higgins (1967)
From greatgridlock.com :The Jacob K. Javits Federal Building and Customs Courthouse, as the complex's full name goes, was built in 1967 for the US Federal Government as the only realized buildings, along with the nearby Family Court Building, of the 1962 Civic Center general plan.At 179 m the Federal Building dominates the Civic Center at Foley Square along with the Municipal Building and the U.S. Courthouse.This massive building has a 41-storey glass-walled slab facing east that is partly "wrapped" around a core that faces Broadway. Originally the facade facing Broadway was a windowless wall of exposed concrete, but in 1976 an extension by the same architects brought offices also to the western portion. The vertical window slits of the glass walls are misaligned so that all the adjacent windows are at a different height, forming an alternating zig-zag pattern on the facade.On the triangular plaza in front of the building is the eight-storey Customs Courthouse as a black glass cube that is elevated on two white vertical "plates" that slice through the cube.The Plaza at the NE corner of the Javitz site once was home to "Tilted Arc", a massive Cor-Ten Steel sculpture by Richard Serra measuring 12 ft x 120 ft x 2 1/2 in.
"Tilted Arc" was installed in the plaza in 1981, but not without controversy :According to Serra, "The viewer becomes aware of himself and of his movement through the plaza. As he moves, the sculpture changes. Contraction and expansion of the sculpture result from the viewer's movement. Step by step the perception not only of the sculpture but of the entire environment changes."The sculpture generates controversy as soon as it is erected, and Judge Edward Re begins a letter-writing campaign to have the $175,000 work removed. Four years later, William Diamond, regional administrator for the GSA, decides to hold a public hearing to determine whether Tilted Arc should be relocated. Estimates for the cost of dismantling the work are $35,000, with an additional $50,000 estimated to erect it in another location. Richard Serra testifies that the sculpture is site-specific, and that to remove it from its site is to destroy it. If the sculpture is relocated, he will remove his name from it.The public hearing is held in March 1985. During the hearing, 122 people testify in favor of retaining the sculpture, and 58 testify in favor of removing it. The art establishment -- artists, museum curators, and art critics -- testify that Tilted Arc is a great work of art. Those against the sculpture, for the most part people who work at Federal Plaza, say that the sculpture interferes with public use of the plaza. They also accuse it of attracting graffiti, rats, and terrorists who might use it as a blasting wall for bombs. The jury of five, chaired by William Diamond, vote 4-1 in favor of removing the sculpture.Serra's appeal of the ruling fails. On March 15, 1989, during the night, federal workers cut Tilted Arc into three pieces, remove it from Federal Plaza, and cart it off to a scrap-metal yard.
More on the case of "Tilted Arc" from the New York Times (May 19, 1985):ART VIEW; THE CASE IN FAVOR OF A CONTROVERSIAL SCULPTUREIn recent years no work of art has been the source of as much controversy as Richard Serra's public sculpture ''Tilted Arc.''Some of the most respected American critics believe it is a failure. Others, including this observer, believe it gives an incoherent, intractable space a focus and sense of possibility it did not have before. Many people who live with the work want it removed.''Tilted Arc'' was commissioned in 1979 and installed in Federal Plaza in downtown Manhattan in 1981. It is a 120-foot-long, 12-foot-tall, unadorned slab of curved and tilted steel that expands toward the north, contracts toward the south and pulls together the Jacob J. Javits Federal Building, to the west, and the Federal Courthouse, to the east. The sculpture is almost adjacent to a large fountain and carefully set into the circular grid pattern of the pavement ...What also makes ''Tilted Arc'' appropriate to its site is its content. The work has a great deal to do with the American Dream. The sculpture's unadorned surface insists upon its identity as steel. The gliding, soaring movement recalls ships, cars and, above all, trains. As with many enduring works of American art and literature, behind the sculpture's facade of overwhelming simplicity and physical immediacy lies a deep restlessness and irony ...One thing that emerged from the hearing is that we have not yet begun to explore the meanings and possibilities of ''Tilted Arc.'' Another is that we are not even remotely in a position to make an irrevocable decision about a work of this complexity and imagination.More on the ruling against and destruction of "Tilted Arc" HERE
The Federal Plaza then (looking esat towards Foley Square):
That same Plaza today (looking north):
A map of the site of The Javits Federal Building (Broadway & Duane Street)from ~ 1700:
Last edited by Edward; January 2nd, 2007 at 09:04 PM. Reason: Removed photos by David Aschkenas
I love old maps like that. But as for this building, I think it's one of the worst in the city. It has no class next to the old greats of the Civic Center.
Screw the Verizon building recladding, recladding THIS baby would be a public service.
But NOT in the style of the Verizon re-clad, thank you very much ...
A footnote to the "Tilted Arc" saga ...
Against the Wall
March 19, 1989
What is 12 feet tall, 120 feet long and red, or at least rust, all over? It is ''Tilted Arc,'' a curving steel wall by the sculptor Richard Serra that was at the center of a prolonged artistic battle. The work, commissioned by the Federal Government in 1981, bisected a portion of Federal Plaza in Lower Manhattan. Many downtown workers found it obtrusive, but other New Yorkers saw it as a statement of artists' rights. The Government wanted to decommission the wall to create more open space. Last week, Mr. Serra gave up his court fight to stop the removal but said that every artistic work commissioned by the Government now would be in jeopardy of censorship.
''This Government is savage,'' he said as workers stored the steel plates. ''It is eating its culture.''
Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
Open Space Replaces 'Arc'
June 15, 1989
A ''new art form - open space,'' will replace Richard Serra's sculpture ''Tilted Arc'' on Federal Plaza in lower Manhattan, in the words of William J. Diamond, the regional administrator of the Federal General Services Administration.
The sculpture was removed from the plaza on March 17 after a bitter court battle in which the Government -which had commissioned the work through the General Services Administration - asserted it overwhelmed the site.
''We are installing 15 benches and planters with trees so that the public can enjoy the plaza again,'' Mr. Diamond said. ''We will rededicate it the first week in July. It's a revolution in our thinking - that open space is an art form in itself that should be treated with the same respect that other art forms are.''
He said ''Tilted Arc,'' disassembled into three segments and covered by a tarpaulin, would remain in a Government motor pool in Brooklyn, ''where it takes up eight parking spaces.''
Copyright 2006The New York Times Company
Wow, thank God they removed it. This is not art, this is shit. This goes beyond contemporary art, where some people see it as random and others see genius in it. What some people don't understand is that 1) contemporaty art must not interfere with function of the location of where it is installed 2) you can't just create any absurd random shit and call it art. This is nothing but a big ol' wall in the middle of a plaza, for no purpose whatsoever. I don't care how much generic bs the sculptor attaches to it ("it changes the view as you go around it"... gee seriously? Can you name me an oblect that doesn't?), I can write nice paragraphs on anything, including how the napkin on my table right now is tastefully crumpled and how my mess on the bed is tastefully random.
Well ^^^ as someone who saw and experienced the "Tilted Arc" in place I'll say it was a very cool piece -- especially for a plaza that was little if ever used.
The "problem" began with the original design of the entire Javits Federal Building site -- which was part of the 1962 Genreal Plan for the area around Federal Plaza and which was only partially built. The Federal Government COMMISSIONED Serra to create / install "Tilted Arc" specifically for that site -- so it seems that from design of the building to installation of this work (a 15-year + period from one to the other) the lunatics were running the asylum.
Most importantly the legal case surrounding "Tilted Arc" was a watershed moment in terms of government and the arts ...
Back to the Javits Federal Building itself ...
A new "Security Pavilion" is currently under construction in the sunken plaza on the west side of the Javits Federal Building (facing Broadway). This will address the problem whereby applicants for various government agencies (including immigaration services) have been forced, due to increased security measures, to wait for entry while standing in long, winding lines which were controlled by police-type barricades outside the Javits building.
FBO DAILY ISSUE OF OCTOBER 28, 2005
FBO # 1432
Construction of a Pavilion on the Broadway Plaza of the Jacob K. Javits Federal Building,26 Federal Plaza, New York, NYAwardee: Volmar Construction, 4400 Second Avenue, Brooklyn, New York 11232Award Amount: $11,994,000.00
A rendering of a version of the Security Pavilion (images attached below): http://www.radiiinc.com/images/42/Radii-Javitz.pdfJavits Federal Plaza - NYCPROJECT DESCRIPTION :Architect: Lehman / Smith + McLeishModel showing proposed glass cueing / security pavilion for downtown GSA building.The Broadway Plaza Pavilion shall be built on the existing Broadway Plaza at 26 Federal Plaza. The site is bounded by Worth Street to the North, Duane Street to the South, Broadway to the West, the Federal Plaza building to the East and sits on top of an existing parking garage below grade.The Pavilion will function as the new "front door" to the Jacob K. Javits Federal Building. All employee access and all visitor queuing and access shall occur through this entrance.The relocation of the security screening outside the building and the relocation of two air intakes shall enhance the building security.The project includes, but is not limited to the following work:Demolition, Architectural, Structural, Interior Construction, Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, and, Landscaping.Potential offerors are advised that the General Services Administration, Public Buildings Service operates under strict security regulations and contractors and all contractor employees, subcontractors, etc. will be required to adhere to all security requirements including but not limited to fingerprinting and background checks.
The steel frame for the new "Security Pavilion" along the Broadway entrance to the Javits Federal Building (aka "26 Federal Plaza") has been erected.
An article from November 2001 describing the conditions outside that entrance to this building, which contains offices for Immigration and Naturalization Services (as well as offices for the FBI & FEMA) and why the new Pavilion has become a necessity in a post-9/11 world:
New York Diary: 26 Federal PlazaNovember 9, 2001
by John BloomNEW YORK (UPI) -- The line forms at sunrise. If you arrive at 26 Federal Plaza after 6:30, you're already too late. The building doesn't open until 8 a.m., but the queue already contains a hundred people, and there are several hundred more likely to arrive before the security door opens.This is our modern Ellis Island, the New York headquarters of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, an imposing white high-rise just six blocks from the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center. The FBI is headquartered in the same building, and this streaming mass of brown faces, yellow faces, olive faces and faces of deep purplish black are in some respects the FBI's greatest nightmare right now. They all have visa problems.
They're all, to a greater or lesser extent, frightened right now. And no one has time to see them ...... it will be a long time before he reaches any floor, much less speaks to an actual agent. Foreign nationals are not allowed to enter 26 Federal Plaza by the main doors. They have their own special six-man security detail, with a super-sensitive metal detector and a guard who goes over each body with an electronic wand. The pace is glacial--up to two minutes per person. The line snakes back and forth under a temporary tent structure, to protect the petitioners from the cold, so that they're constantly moving close to the magic door, then away again as the queue folds back on itself ...
© Copyright 2001 United Press International and Joe Bob Briggs
More on the eastern plaza outside the Javits Federal building (where "Tilted Arc" used to live):
This Plaza was re-designed by Martha Schwartz Partners of Cambridge, MA:
In 1992, the Federal Government undertook the repair of the waterproofing for the underground garage beneath the Jacob Javits Plaza. Because the existing plaza would be demolished during the waterproofing construction, the opportunity was seen to revitalize the plaza. During the time that Richard Serra's "Tilted Arc" inhabited the plaza, this 14 foot high sculpture was an obstruction both visually and physically to pedestrians. After the sculpture was removed, the plaza remained vacant and disconnected from its context.The intent of the plaza redesign was to create a useable, lively open space in the heart of the city. Full art and landscape architectural design services were required for this transformation to take place.The new plaza is reconnected to its surrounding context and provides innumerable seating opportunities for people having lunch or just for watching other people. Large planters which formerly existed at the northwest and southeast corners of the site have been removed, as well as the long-empty fountain which had occupied the only sunny portion of the site. By opening up the plaza, the connections between the plaza and the street are reestablished, and the people who wish to sit can do so in either sun or shade.The seating for the site is provided on twisting strands of New York City park benches. The double strands of back-to-back benches loop back and forth and allow for a variety of seating - intimate circles for groups and outside curves for those who wish to lunch alone. With their complex forms and bright green color, these benches energize the flat plane of the plaza in the same way that the French used the parterres embroideries which were punctuated by topiary forms and whose edges were defined by trees and buildings. The bright green color of the benches was selected because its reflectivity helps to enliven a plaza, which for the most part, is in shade.At Jacob Javits Plaza, the benches swirl around the "topiary" or 6 foot tall grassy hemispheres that exude mist on hot days. Familiar lunchtime elements are provided such as blue enameled drinking fountains, orange wire-mesh trash cans, and Central Park lighting standards. While all of these elements are drawn from the Olmstedean tradition which maintains its hold in New York City, each element is tweaked slightly from its historic predecessor. These elements offer a critique of the art of landscape in New York City, where the ghost of Frederick Law Olmsted is too great a force for even New York to exorcise. The design itself offers a wry commentary on the fact that while New York remains a cultural mecca for most art forms, exploration in landscape architecture receives little support.
For a City College class this semester, I am analyzing the Jacob Javits Plaza in downtown Manhattan -- you know, the plaza that was occupied by this but is now occupied by this -- and would like to add some opinions on the current Martha Schwartz design into the mix of observations and history. Here's a previous WiredNY post on the plaza and its adjoining buildings if you want more information.
So, what do you Wired New Yorkers think about the plaza? Is it art? Is it Pop? Is it a masterpiece? Is it crap? I'm open to all opinions but would like you to back it up with some reasoning. And don't worry, any opinions I use in the final report will be anonymous.
Here's a bit of my own take that will hopefully get the ball rolling.
Briefly, I am approaching the plaza's design from the view that it cannot be divorced from what came before, Serra's Tilted Arc. My first impression on seeing images of the project years ago were that it was goofy, a bit too goofy for my tastes, which veer towards something like Serra's piece. Now having spent days in the plaza, watching how people interact with the space, it appears to work, at least in terms of its intentions as a "waiting room" for the Federal Building and lunch spot for employees. The lack of shade means it is not used for long periods, and on weekends the place is empty, perhaps owing to its location in the city but also to its location above sidewalk level.
Given my contention that it cannot be divorced from Serra's minimal work, I think the space went so far in the opposite direction that it's over-designed. I've counted approx. 1,700 linear feet of bench, meaning that with 100 people it still appears empty, especially when people space themselves along lines of personal space. Observing people in the space, some are confused by the curls and have to retrace their steps to get where they're going. That's an ironic twist on a project that's the antithesis of a wall that dictated people's movements; freedom was not the opposite in this case, and the limited usefulness of the space (waiting, eating) reinforces that.
Well, I dont' want to say too much, though I'm sure others have different opinions than my own. In particular I'm interested if people view the design as artistic, or how they see it in those terms. It strives to be art, but functional art, unlike Serra's arc which lacked any useful function.
The plaza as now designed is a complete failure -- a failure because it originally contained steam which rose from the top of each of the mounds (which were originally covered in suburban grass, rather than the box hedges that are there now). The technology that operated the steam broke down -- or just never worked properly -- so they scrapped that aspect of the design (I think this happened in year one).
What you see now is a compromise of the Schwartz design. The existing design has erased any ironic qualities of the original vision. All that is left is a whimsical pattern of benches and colors. Cute but kitschy.
Perhaps it is now a better place to eat lunch than when Serra's TILTED ARC bisected the plaza -- but beyond that I give this one a zero.
And who knows what other changes will come about as the Feds finish up their work on the "Security Pavilions" at the edges of the Javits / International Court of Trade (while taking the second photo below I just about got busted by a otherwise frinedly Federal Agent who flashed her badge and told me it was illegal to take pictures of Federal Buildings) ...
I'm wondering if the new security pavilion will have the added impact of removing a relatively constant stream of traffic from the plaza and therefore negate its use as a waiting room. The plaza could potentially become the back door and even more underused.
Tilted Arc was too visionary, a victim of being before its time. In today's world, duplicates of it would completely surround the entire building interspersed with security gates. Think about it. Serra's statement intentionally impeded freedom of movement in the plaza, but for intellectual and experiential purposes. If Tilted Arc was restored to the plaza, our experience of it - in this location - would be altered by the realities of security in an age of fear and terrorism. Likewise, the compromised Schwart's plaza has to address conflicting needs for security, safety, community, and a pleasant lunch. It comes close. What's needed is a touch of whimsy with an edge of irony.