University Center – The New School

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New School Interiors
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  • Client The New School
  • Expertise Higher Education, Interiors
  • Region North America
  • Location New York, New York, United States

Conceived as a campus within a building, the 16-story University Center creates a dynamic hub for a unique university in the heart of New York City.

Project Facts
  • Status Construction Complete
  • Completion Year 2013
  • Design Finish Year 2010
  • Size Site Area: 0.07 acres Building Height: 178 feet Number of Stories: 16 Building Gross Area: 370,000
  • Awards
    2014, American Architecture Award, Chicago Athenaeum 2015, Citation, AIA – New York State 2011, Green Good Design Award, Chicago Athenaeum 2015, Merit Award for Architecture, AIA – New York City Chapter 2015, Top Ten Award, AIA – Committee on the Environment (COTE) 2015, North American Copper in Architecture Award, Copper Development Association 2015, Educational Facility Design Excellence Award, AIA – Committee on Architecture for Education (CAE) 2017, Shortlisted: The Plan Award - Education, The Plan 2017, Global Award for Excellence, Urban Land Institute (ULI) 2015, North American Copper in Architecture Award, Copper Development Association 2009, Citation, American School & University
  • Sustainability Certifications LEED BD+C NC (New Construction) Gold, BD+C, Gold
  • Collaborators
    Buro Happold Consulting Engineers Langan Engineering & Environmental Services, Inc. Shen Milsom & Wilke Brandston Partnership Jacobs Consultancy DeSimone Consulting Engineers Rickes Associates, Inc. Cerami & Associates Cosentini Associates SLCE Architects Van Deusen & Associates (VDA) Tishman Construction Corporation ADS Engineers Fisher Dachs Associates Milrose Consultants, Inc. The Durst Organization Entek Engineering, LLC Fulcrum Alliance Environmental Cini-Little International, Inc. Integral Reudi Baur Paris ProjectConsult
Project Facts
  • Status Construction Complete
  • Completion Year 2013
  • Design Finish Year 2010
  • Size Site Area: 0.07 acres Building Height: 178 feet Number of Stories: 16 Building Gross Area: 370,000
  • Awards
    2014, American Architecture Award, Chicago Athenaeum 2015, Citation, AIA – New York State 2011, Green Good Design Award, Chicago Athenaeum 2015, Merit Award for Architecture, AIA – New York City Chapter 2015, Top Ten Award, AIA – Committee on the Environment (COTE) 2015, North American Copper in Architecture Award, Copper Development Association 2015, Educational Facility Design Excellence Award, AIA – Committee on Architecture for Education (CAE) 2017, Shortlisted: The Plan Award - Education, The Plan 2017, Global Award for Excellence, Urban Land Institute (ULI) 2015, North American Copper in Architecture Award, Copper Development Association 2009, Citation, American School & University
  • Sustainability Certifications LEED BD+C NC (New Construction) Gold, BD+C, Gold
  • Collaborators
    Buro Happold Consulting Engineers Langan Engineering & Environmental Services, Inc. Shen Milsom & Wilke Brandston Partnership Jacobs Consultancy DeSimone Consulting Engineers Rickes Associates, Inc. Cerami & Associates Cosentini Associates SLCE Architects Van Deusen & Associates (VDA) Tishman Construction Corporation ADS Engineers Fisher Dachs Associates Milrose Consultants, Inc. The Durst Organization Entek Engineering, LLC Fulcrum Alliance Environmental Cini-Little International, Inc. Integral Reudi Baur Paris ProjectConsult

Building on a progressive legacy

For more than a century, The New School has been at the forefront of progressive education, with design and social research driving approaches to studying contemporary issues. In recent decades, the school has built on this legacy to grow into a major degree-granting university with 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

But as the school outgrew its longtime home in New York’s Greenwich Village and found its real estate holdings spread across the city, its pedagogical model proved difficult to maintain. SOM’s University Center, thanks to its pioneering design and state-of-the-art facilities, enables the school to build on its forward-thinking legacy and sustain its pedagogical model long into the future.

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© James Ewing

Rather than compartmentalize learning, living, dining, and social spaces, the University Center situates these functions in a vertical configuration, creating strategic adjacencies and heightening the university’s commitment to interdisciplinary learning. In total, the 16-story center adds 375,000 square feet of space to the school’s Greenwich Village campus, housing design studios, laboratories, interdisciplinary classrooms, the main university library, a nine-floor student residence, an 800-seat auditorium, a café, and flexible academic and social spaces.

Jon Cicconi

The project has been highly transformative — for both The New School and for SOM — and it has advanced the conversation throughout the profession about how to design urban academic buildings.

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Jon Cicconi

Pathways to discussion and debate

The University Center’s system of double stairways plays a critical role in the life of the building; it works in conjunction with skip-stop elevators to move large numbers of students vertically. Stacked one above the other, the fire stair is designed for quick circulation, while the broader, open “communicating stair” allows for travel between floors at a more leisurely pace. With faceted walls clad in glass-fiber-reinforced concrete panels, the high-use stairways are a place for chance meetings between students and faculty, spaces that encourage social interaction and interdisciplinary exchange.

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© SOM

Circulation paths move vertically, horizontally and diagonally through the building and lead to “sky quads” — interactive spaces that also orient users due to their adjacency to stairways and corridors. Like stairs that link them, the sky quads serve as social spaces, promoting planned and improvised encounters between students and faculty, as well as supporting academic and leisure activities. These interactive spaces include student lounge areas, resource centers with adjacent meeting rooms, study areas, cafés, and pin-up spaces for design studios.

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© James Ewing
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© James Ewing
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© James Ewing

This innovative interior organization is expressed in the exterior of the building. Student spaces are clad in hand-finished brass shingles and contrast with the stairs and quads visible through a glazed skin. The exterior mediates between the cast-iron facades of the Ladies’ Mile Historic District to the north and the brownstones of the Greenwich Village Historic District to the south and west. With its prominent presence at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and 14th Street, the University Center broadcasts the experimental nature of the school’s new home, creating a dialogue between the campus community, the local neighborhood, and the city.


A model for sustainable and energy-efficient design

Designed to meet LEED Gold certification, the University Center set the New York City standard for green technology and building practices with super-efficient LED lights, occupancy sensors, a 265-kilowatt cogeneration plant, and sustainably sourced materials. At the time of its construction, it was among the most sustainable academic buildings in the country.

The building achieves 31 percent energy savings beyond the baseline established by the building code. Both passive and high-tech solutions improve energy efficiency — from the shingled cladding which shades the windows to an ice-storage system that uses electricity from the power grid during off-peak times.

The building serves as a living element of the curriculum, providing on-site training to the next generation of leaders in environmental studies, sustainability management, and urban design. Design elements that demonstrate architectural, structural, mechanical and green building strategies are visible through signage and working exhibits. Back-of-house systems have been transformed into instructional spaces for New School students and facilities staff, as well as for professional organizations and unions who use the building for hands-on training.

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