Jacob K. Javits Convention Center is a large convention center located on Eleventh Avenue, on the West side of Manhattan in New York City. It was designed by architects I. M. Pei and partners. The revolutionary space frame structure was built in 1986 and named for United States Senator Jacob K. Javits, who died that year.
Planning and constructing a convention center on Manhattan’s west side has had a long and controversial history, including efforts starting in the early 1970s to produce a megaproject involving a redevelopment concept.
Weidlinger Associates was structural engineer for the design of the Javits Convention Center, which occupies 18 acres on the west side of Manhattan. It features a crystalline roof, assembled from 747,000 square feet of space frame components. As total enclosure both vertical and horizontal, it was the largest use of the concept at the time. The building evokes both the Crystal Palace built for the London Exhibition of 1851 and the Galerie des Machines built for the Paris Exhibition of 1889. The project received several awards, including an Engineering Excellence Award from the New York Association of Consulting Engineers.
The challenge of the Javits Center was to transform a warehouse-shaped building, consisting of two floors above grade and two below, into a flexible public space of pleasing proportions. The solution was an architectural scheme that exposed and emphasized the structural system through a transparent skin, and a geometry that harmonized the glass, steel, and concrete elements. The space frame roof and lower levels of precast and cast-in-place concrete were used to heighten the drama and impact of the space as well as to support the huge expanses of the building. The geometry of the patented space frame system was based on a five-foot glass module, a ten-foot space frame module, and 30, 45, and 90-foot column spacing. This patterning reduced scale and resulted in a single, unified rhythmical structure.
“The exterior of this mammoth, five-block long building is an assemblage of rectilinear forms, all shaped by a framework of prefabricated steel modules fitted with clear glass. Inside, the structure is supported by tubular steel pillars that resemble chunky champagne glasses. At its south end there’s a spectacular 150-foot-high lobby, dubbed the crystal palace. Also housed within the center’s 1.8 million square feet: a 2,500 seat auditorium and acres of exhibition halls and meeting rooms.”
—from Sylvia Hart Wright. Sourcebook of Contemporary North American Architecture: From Postwar to Postmodern. p93.