Orange County Government Center
The Orange County Government Center in Goshen, New York, was designed by architect Paul Rudolph and is considered one of his greatest achievements. Completed in 1970, the structure stands as a testament to the era of late modernism, when civic architecture was forging new avenues in design and construction. Its striking brutalist style exterior is characterized by massive, textured concrete blocks and large expanses of glass. The three-winged, three-storied building creates complex interiors that divide administrative, judicial, and other government functions. Natural light bathes the space through clerestory windows along 87 multi-level roofs. Poor maintenance practices have led to deterioration, and county government has been calling for the building to be demolished and replaced. Exacerbating the issue, a hurricane in September 2011 flooded and damaged the structure, after which the center was closed by county officials, who renewed the proposal for demolition. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which provides assistance to local governments after disasters, has asked for further study of conditions to determine whether repair is feasible. The local community is also calling for more review, and grassroots activists have united in support of the Orange County Government Center. It is hoped that inclusion on the Watch will help save this notable piece of progressive architecture.
Since the Watch
Following the 2012 Watch, a long campaign succeeded in averting the building’s demolition. After the government center was closed in 2011, county government services were moved to other locations. Meanwhile, consultants were hired by the county administration to study the options for the future of the building. Their findings and cost estimates were presented to the public in January 2012. The county administration proposed to demolish the building and construct a new government center in its place. Local advocates hosted public forums around Orange County as part of a preservation campaign, and WMF collected over 2,000 signatures from around the world in an online petition opposing demolition. In May 2012 the Orange County legislature failed to achieve the two-thirds majority required to demolish the building. After the vote, a press investigation revealed U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency findings disputing the claim that the building was beyond repair, which had not been made available to county legislators. A special legislative committee was formed, and, after deliberations and expert hearings over the summer months, the committee concluded that the Orange County Government Center is fit for rehabilitation and that previous estimates of the cost of restoration were too high. In February 2013, legislators in Orange County voted to authorize $10 million to begin restoration. In April 2014, the legislature approved a final plan to restore much of the building, while demolishing part of it to make way for a new addition. On May 1, the Orange County Legislature authorized a bond for $77 million to renovate the building. In an unprecedented act, Gene Kaufmann, a New York City architect known primarily for his designs for hotels, attended the May 1 meeting where legislators voted to approve the $77 million bond and made an offer to buy the OCGC, turn it into artist spaces, and build a new government center. June 2014