Jacob Javits Plaza: Redesigned Again

Future Plaza Rendering by Michael VanValkenburgh . Courtesy MVV

For anyone who has been in Landscape Architecture school in the last 10 years, I am sure you are familiar with the plaza in front of the Jacob K. Javits Federal Building in lower Manhattan.  I came across an article this morning that announced that once again Jacob Javits Plaza will be redesigned again.  Initially, the plaza was home to the Richard Serra sculpture, Tilted Arc, but due to controversy, it was removed in the late 80s.  The plaza was then transformed into a post-modern creation with memorable S-shaped, bright green benches by Martha Schwartz.  From what I understand, the plaza is rarely occupied; which is hard to understand since it resides in the most densely populated City in the US.  Michael Van Valkenburgh has been commissioned to redesign the plaza, as well as repair the leaky parking garage, which is located under the plaza.

This seems to remind me of another project located in downtown Denver, Skyline Park.  Skyline Park was initially designed by Lawrence Halprin and recently redesigned by Thomas Balsley to make the site more safe and accessible.  The debate continues of finding a balance between form and function.  Functionality is truly KEY to creating a space for people.

Read the full article about Jacob Javits Plaza.

Original Plaza -Tilted Arc by Richard Serra . Photo © 1985 David Aschkenas

The current plaza is designed by Martha Schwartz . courtesy of archidose


  1. I like the rotation of this space. The life cycle of urban spaces may shorten even more as the way we travel and live in urban environments changes drastically over the next few decades. The debate on this one also reminds me of Harlequin Plaza in the Denver tech center. First done as more graphic design of the space for viewing, then redone as shady lunch space. Big contrast between the two. The second design is more functional but less memorable than the original.

  2. Living and spending time in China has opened my eyes to a lot of urban spaces created for people to utilize and enjoy. I see a lot of spaces that have been created for pure functional appeal and due to the size of the population it is used. Function needs to be a key consideration in designing an appeal for use, however I truly believe that function is not what makes the space but rather is what gives a successful space structure and viability. As designers we are always working at defining what makes for a successful space. Is it intricate patterns and creation of social experiences that cause someone to relax and enjoy the space created; is it beautiful serene landscapes that someone can escape the reality of the world that surrounds them. Is it a high quality fit and finish that is impressive; are we trying to promote certain emotions as the spaces are used? Good article and it goes well with Matt’s article on engineered bridges.

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