JACOB JAVITS PLAZA
New York, NY (2009–2013)
Capitalizing on the installation of a new waterproofing system for the underground garage below, the Jacob K. Javits Federal Building Plaza combines the dignity of a civic threshold with the inviting intimacy of a neighborhood park in one of highest-profile civic landscapes outside Washington, D.C. The landscape design generates curvilinear planted landforms that enclose seating areas and “fold” down over the garage plinth, stitching the plaza into its broader context. The paving pattern quotes the Federal Building’s distinctive façade, and the plaza is animated by a lively interplay of water, benches, and plants, including a ring of sculptural magnolias.

While the Federal Building in Lower Manhattan is near to several residential neighborhoods, its immediate urban context consists of Foley Square, a collection of municipal, state, and federal civic buildings. This context illustrates the delicate balance of uses that the plaza needs to encourage and anticipate: it must straddle the line between civic porch and public park, welcoming the public while suggesting a dignified use and incorporating necessary security features.

The plaza interior consists of a hierarchy of spaces that can accommodate both formal and casual uses. The landforms create outdoor "rooms," populated by benches and ringed with mature magnolias increase the sense of enclosure. (These spaces were carefully sited to shield visitors from winter wind and summer sun.) In one area, a fountain emerges directly from the pavement, giving the space a visual and aural dynamism. The combination of planting, water, and pavement keeps the plaza from feeling empty, and provides space for farmer’s market stalls, movable tables and chairs, concessions, and performances.

Jacob Javits Plaza won a 2014 GSA Design Honor Award.
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