Located on the north lawn of the United Nations campus, New York City, the U.N. Interim Canopy is a porte cochere structure that sits adjacent to the U.N.’s new temporary General Assembly building, designed by HLW International. The structure serves as an entrance pavilion and security screen for general assembly delegates. The structure is envisioned as a relocatable building to be moved to another part of the campus at the completion of the five-year renovation.
The renovation of the historic U.N. buildings is scheduled as a five-year project. Due to the temporary nature of the interim buildings, the environmental impact and sustainability of the porte cochere was of prime interest to the U.N. and was considered at the outset of the design process. Realizing these concerns, the design team introduced the concept of relocate-ability. Why recycle parts when you can recycle an entire structure? The porte cochere may be relocated to another location on the U.N. campus or to any other site of the U.N.’s choosing. The final design has minimal anchorage points and is modular using prefabricated steel trusses that allow quick installation that minimizes the impact of construction crews on site. The high-tech textile membrane’s function is two-fold: it provides support as a working tensile element equally distributing structural loads, and it defuses sunlight to naturally illuminate the spaces below.
The client required visual privacy for the U.N. delegates and ventilation for idling cars under the structure. The structure uses two fabrics, a Teflon-coated glass fabric as the main fabric and a silicone-coated glass fabric for greater translucency in the arches. Functionally, the canopy provides shelter for the motorcades as they load and unload delegates and requires ventilation for the idling cars inside. The open façades and linear vents that run the entire length of the trusses allow fresh air to flow freely throughout the enclosure. In addition to the Venturi effect natural ventilation [the natural increase in wind speed due to air passing over vertical surfaces], exhaust fans are mounted in the trusses to remove fumes as required.
The client and its security teams, including the Secret Service, were very satisfied by the project because it provides the necessary visual privacy, passive and active ventilation and a sustainable approach to the project by using a design that can be relocated to other parts of the U.N. campus. The client called the structure a “functional work of art.” The porte cochere offers an elegant counterpoint to the rectilinear architectural elements which inhabit the site. This temporary addition to the historical site is at once a suggestion of ideas that speak not only of the present, but look forward to future possibilities of the United Nations, its mission and what humanity may achieve.
The project won an Outstanding Achievement Award in the IFAI 2011 International Achievement Awards program.