Center III Building, LaGuardia Community College

Artboard Created with Sketch.
Long Island City, NY
LaGuardia Community College
168,000 SF

Center Three is a 100-year-old, one million square-foot building in Long Island City originally known as the Sunshine Biscuit Factory. In the 1990’s the building was purchased by the state of New York and the primary tenant became LaGuardia Community College. Years of neglect, patching, and inadequate repairs contributed to exterior wall failures. A sidewalk shed to protect pedestrians from falling objects surrounded the building for over a decade while potential solutions were considered. Tear the building down? Replace the façade?  If so, with what material? 

The decision to select unitized terra cotta curtainwall emerged as a response to the unique conditions of the building. The goal was to design a new exterior that respected the long history of terra cotta use on the façade, but to incorporate contemporary technology in the form of a unitized curtainwall system. The result is a high-performance sustainable façade designed to last another 100 years.

Reinventing a 100-Year-Old Structure

The Sunshine Biscuit Factory was built rapidly over the course of one year in 1913. Located at the nexus of rail and water transit in Long Island City, Queens, this 1,000,000 square-foot building was part of an emerging economy of large scale manufacturing and transport.

The façade had been largely neglected for nearly 80 years. Large portions of glazed terracotta were chipping and the wood framed windows were beginning to fail. After DASNY took ownership, the question became: was it time to tear down the tired, failing vestige of another era, or could it be saved?
A façade replacement study identified several viable, sustainable options for the exterior, creating a strong case for adaptive reuse. The design team developed a unitized curtain wall system for the replacement. By embracing the material of terracotta, the design would evoke the past, but by utilizing contemporary curtain wall panels the design would also engage state-of-the-art technology.
This progress shot taken from the southeast corner shows the curtainwall installation process.
This detail of the façade shows how the varying depths, setbacks, and overhangs provide the play of light and shadows that made the original facade so visually successful at both the large, urban scale and the more intimate, human scale.