In a tale of good design adapting to serve the greater good, New York’s Jacob K. Javits Center—home to past Interior Design Hall of Fame and Best of Year Award ceremonies—has been enlisted in the battle against the coronavirus. The main showroom floor of the 1.8 million square feet of convention hall, designed by I.M. Pei’s Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, was repurposed by 165 members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers into New York’s first alternate-care hospital, serving more than 2,000 non-COVID-19 patients. “This was never an intended use, but you do what you have to do,” New York governor Andrew Cuomo says. “That’s the New York way. That’s the American way.”
“As the architects for the recent expansion and modernization of the Javits Convention Center, we’re proud to see the building being put into duty,” FXCollaborative managing partner Guy Geier adds. “We believe that the upgrades that we made to the building, along with new energy-efficient systems, will benefit the Army Corps of Engineers as they execute this temporary conversion.”
James Crispino, a principal and co-global health and wellness practice area leader at Gensler, explains that “the conversion of Javits to a surge hospital will allow city hospitals to transfer low acuity patients, freeing beds in the hospital for COVID-19 patients. This is common practice for all types of facilities conversions including hotels and dormitories in addition to convention centers funded by federal grants that pass through FEMA to the USACE, which makes the arrangements to operate the facility for as long as it is needed. Designers can help by joining design/build teams retained by the USACE to quickly turn around the building conversions.”
After a 32-year run at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Interior Design’s annual Hall of Fame Awards were relocated to Pei’s River Pavilion at the Javits Center in 2017, the 85th anniversary of the magazine and Pei’s 100th birthday—which was celebrated by his induction that year. The following year, the growing popularity of Interior Design’s annual Best of Year Awards necessitated a move from Frank Gehry’s IAC Building to join its counterpart at the facility with sweeping riverside views of the New York metropolitan area and an elaborate evolving entrance designed by Calvin Tsao of Tsao & McKown in partnership with Sunbrella.
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