Photo by Sean Hemmerle, via Graham Foundation

Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center, the embattled, hive-like structure in Goshen, New York, moved closer to being partially demolished. On March 5, County legislators failed to take action to invalidate a contract with Clark Patterson Lee, an upstate New York architecture and engineering firm, that calls for tearing down a large part of the building, renovating the remainder, and adding an 86,000-square-foot wing that bears little relationship to —and will obscure much of—Rudolph’s design. “That means they can go ahead and begin demolition at any time,” said attorney Michael Sussman, a partner in the Goshen firm Sussman &Watkins.

Meanwhile, Clark Patterson Lee CEO Philip Clark, an engineer, revealed that even the parts of Rudolph’s building he plans to retain will get completely new facades. Clark told the legislature that saving Rudolph’s famous corduroy concrete, rather than replacing it, would be too costly. Robert Miklos, founder of the Boston firm designLAB, which renovated a Rudolph library in southern Massachusetts (and was working with Clark Patterson Lee until last August), said it might be possible to cast new concrete blocks, but that he saw no good reason for discarding Rudolph’s walls.

Sussman said he was “90 percent sure” he would sue the county to prevent it from proceeding with the Clark Patterson Lee plan. At a press conference after the legislature failed to act, and in several interviews with RECORD, he said county legislators had “committed waste” (squandering of public funds) when they rejected an offer by Manhattan architect Gene Kaufman to buy the government center for $5 million and turn it into artists studios. Kaufman says his plan to build a new government center nearby would cost the county $51 million, while Clark Patterson Lee estimates the cost of partially demolishing, then adding to, the building at $68 million. Last December, Kaufman said he was willing to proceed with the arts center plan whether or not the county gave him the contract to design the new government center. His proposal for an arts center alongside a new government complex has been dubbed “the two-building solution."

Meanwhile, bids to partially raze the Rudolph building came in at nearly twice the $3.9 million estimated by Clark Patterson Lee. County officials are examining the bids, a process that appears to have delayed the start of demolition and given Sussman more time to marshal his case. Sussman said he has been successful in previous actions against the county — in one case blocking construction of a new landfill on a principal aquifer — and that he will only file suit if he thinks he can win.