This story is part of a monthlong series of guests posts by AIA New York that feature Archtober Building of the Day tours. See the full 2017 schedule here. On Monday, Archtober toured the renovated George Washington Bridge Bus Station. During our tour, Robert Eisenstat, FAIA, Chief Architect of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), and Robert Davidson, FAIA, Senior Vice President and Aviation and Multimodal Practice Lead at STV, described the design and renovation process for the project. The bus station vastly simplified access to buses and subway, creating commercial space to serve as both a source of revenue for PANYNJ and a new focal point for the community. The renovation project began around 2004, when PANYNJ was casting around for revenue streams in the wake of 9/11. A key aim of this initiative was to open retail space throughout PANYNJ’s properties. At the same time, the George Washington Bus Terminal needed considerable revamping. Every two platforms had a separate stair running up from the ground level, creating both a logistical nightmare and an accessibility violation. There wasn’t enough room to put in ramps or an elevator for multiple staircases. PANYNJ architects had long been drawing up plans for an integrated bus concourse from which all platforms would be accessible. This, combined with the need for rental space, became the impetus for the redevelopment. The project officially began once PANYNJ and STV convinced a developer to take on the project in exchange for revenue from renting the business spaces in the late aughts. The George Washington Bridge Bus Station was originally a PANYNJ project planned in conjunction with one of Robert Moses’s immense infrastructure projects. It sits over the Trans-Manhattan Expressway, which connects the George Washington Bridge across the Hudson with the Alexander Hamilton Bridge on the Harlem River. The Bus Terminal was designed by Italian architect and engineer Pier Luigi Nervi, a pioneer of reinforced-concrete construction whose other notable works include numerous sports stadia in his native Italy. As Eisenstat and Davidson stated, although the building is not officially landmarked, they treated it as if it was and even collaborated with the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission on the project. A thorough analysis of the building’s use guided the design of the renovation. The proposal consolidated all bus gates into one centrally accessible expanse, eliminating redundant stairs. It also concentrated all bus activity on the top (third) level, leaving the ground level open for commercial use. This retail space focuses on the “Broadway corridor,” which the designers and developer identified as the main way the bus terminal could serve the surrounding community. The set of stores is known as the "GWB Market | Mercado," as new lettering proclaims. These stores, which include a sorely needed supermarket just off Broadway, are almost all rented and will, once fully occupied, create a new hub of activity to ensure that the terminal serves local users as well as those in transit. The ground floor is now a clean, large space where escalators and a stair lead to the bus concourse above. When visitors arrive at the top of the stairs, they can see the parked buses and, past one of Nervi’s columns, catch a glimpse of the George Washington Bridge. PANYNJ and STV managed to imbue clarity and simplicity into Nervi’s extraordinary structure, turning a somewhat forbidding and empty structure into a pleasing and welcoming space serving both those on the move and the local community. Tuesday's tour of The Hills at Governors Island had to be cancelled due to inclement weather. Join us on Wednesday at Bronx River House.
Posts tagged with "Pier Luigi Nervi":
While it is more restrained than many of the high designed garages currently popping up in Miami, the new garage at New York Botanical Gardens, designed by Ennead's Suzan Rodriguez with Desman Associates, marks a distinct departure for bland lots frequently found around New York. The garage opened to the public last Friday and promises to sport a vertical garden on all four sides once the plantings catch on to and climb up the Greenscreen wire trellis. The trellis wire rests between 'V' shaped vertical columns that derive inspiration from tree-limbs. But one can also detect a modernist influence, perhaps Pier Luigi Nervi's George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal? The effort goes a bit beyond the call of greening duty, as its not actually located in the the gardens. It sits on a former industrial site across the street and over the bridge of the MTA's North Harlem local line.
When the attention of real estate speculators diverts, sometimes old neighborhoods have time to acquire a majestic patina. The Washington Heights section of northern Manhattan has been neglected for some time, but is now getting a fair share of spillover interest from Columbia's Manhattanville project and the university's nearby hospital campus. In 2009, the Audubon Park Historic District was created to protect the area just behind Audubon Terrace, home to the Hispanic Society and the Academy of Arts and Letters. But just north of the district, years of landlord neglect has unwittingly preserved row after row of early 20th century apartment buildings festooned with ornate cornices. But the cornices are now in danger of disappearing. Provided you look up, there are still vistas in Washington Heights that recall the area’s heyday. In the early part of the last century a striving middle class made up of German Jews, Irish, and Greeks walked beneath striped fabric awnings perched at apartment windows, all topped with fanciful cornices. Most know that when Robert Moses plowed through the Bronx to build the Cross Bronx Expressway, neighborhoods were severed and died a slow death. But little attention is paid to the Cross Bronx’s connection to the George Washington Bridge, which severed Washington Heights too, providing easy access for suburbanites to swoop in and out of the neighborhood to buy drugs. Eventually, like the South Bronx, the area regained its footing. Now, the Pier Luigi Nervi-designed Port Authority Bus Terminal at the base of the bridge is set to undergo a $285 million restoration. And Starbucks, the ever present harbinger of gentrification, is just a few blocks north. But just as Washington Heights begins its reemergence, several building owners are stripping away the architectural features that make the area unique. Just next door to the bus terminal sits 4195 Broadway at the corner of 178th Street. Two weeks ago, the decorative lion heads that once reigned atop the 1920 edifice were stripped, thrown into a dumpster and replaced with corrugated metal. It’s indicative of a neighborhood trend. Over the past several years the cornices of Washington Heights are finally getting much needed maintenance attention. But instead of restoring them, many building owners are ripping them off and replacing them with steel, aluminum, and concrete. Photographer Trish Mayo noticed the latest affront on a bus ride home from the library. The shapes in a dumpster registered as something familiar to her. She got off the bus to investigate. Mayo said the dumpster was almost full with terracotta lion heads taken from 4195. The dumpster has since been carted away. “I think that after so many years of neglect the decorative details have become a safety hazarded and it’s just cheaper to destroy all the beauty that’s in these buildings,” she said.