The Future of Convention Centers


Venues and organizations evolve into new roles in the midst of New York City coming back to life. While serving their original purpose, it’s possible for venues to contribute to the community based on the future of city development. Leaders and advocates proactively embrace the shift permeating New York.

Welcome to the inaugural season of Architecture 5 10 20! I’m your host, Guy Geier, Managing Partner of FXCollaborative Architects in New York. Guests from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences related to the built environment will come to share their thought leadership. Our conversations will start with understanding how they arrived at what they’re doing now. More importantly, we will focus on discussing their vision for the future, looking out 5, 10, and 20 years.

Today, we’re joined by Alan Steel, President and CEO of the New York Convention Center Corporation. This is the same entity that operates the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on Manhattan’s Westside. Prior to his leadership at the Javits Center, Alan was an Event Management Executive and worked with the British Government in trade related positions. His experience gave him the insight needed to lead the renovation on the iconic center, rebranding it as a versatile, inviting anchor of the Westside and all of New York.

Listen to Alan speak about the past, present, and future of the Javits Center. When he first took over, there was talk about tearing the center down and relocating it. Alan shares how he, his team, and collaborators moved past this to the status of the Javits Center now. Thriving in the city, Alan explains the renovation choices made to complement New York and enhance the center’s purpose. Learn how renovation aspects like bird-friendly glass and a green roof created unexpected benefits for all sides.

The Javits Center’s value is in its adaptability. As Alan calls it, the center is a “flexible big box with docks prepared for almost any program to define it.” As convention, culture, and usage shifts, and COVID redefines gathering, how can this space be a precedent for repurposing large spaces? How can similar venues push sustainability in building and program standards? Moving forward, the Javits Center will certainly serve as a leader in sustainability and community impact.


Time stamps:

[01:43] – Alan Steel explains his decades of work experience I’m connecting to the Javits Center.

[03:56] – How did Alan handle the proposal to tear down and move the Javits Center?

[05:52] – The Javits Center was almost expanded to 42nd St.

[07:57] – Alan talks about the impact of renovation aspects like bird-friendly glass, a green roof, and a lighter interior color scheme.

[09:59] – What unexpected benefits came from the renovation choices?

[11:58] – Alan explains how the building’s northern expansion helps feed the community and smooths out sustainable logistics.

[13:24] – What does sustainability mean to the Javits Center?

[15:58] – Change is inevitable, and architects can have an active role in the change.

[17:44] – How did the Javits Center become a field site during the pandemic?

[20:36] – Alan says the Javits Center has talked to federal, state, and city agencies about being involved in future emergencies.

[23:28] – Adaptability and flexibility is essential for convention centers.

[25:28] – Alan explains the importance of an integrated approach to city development.

[27:57] – Thank you Alan for reminding us to integrate sustainability and community impact as large venues find a new purpose.


Guy Geier

Guy Geier FAIA, FIIDA, LEED is Managing Partner of FXCollaborative and host of the architecture 5 10 20 podcast.

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