University Center, The New School by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
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University Center The New School EN

SOM | Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

University Center, The New School by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

For nearly a century, The New School has been at the forefront of progressive education, with design and social research driving approaches to studying the issues of our time, from democracy and urbanization, to technology, sustainability, and globalization.

The University Center adds 375,000 square feet of academic and student space to The New School’s Greenwich Village campus. The 16-story center houses 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 for student activity.

Conceived as a campus within a building, the University Center transforms the traditional university environment. Rather than compartmentalize learning, living, dining, and socializing spaces, these functions are situated in a vertical configuration, creating strategic adjacencies and heightening the university’s commitment to interdisciplinary learning. Connections between classrooms, studios, library, cafés, auditorium, and student residences take the form of stacked staircases and “sky quads” that facilitate the chance encounters vital to the cultivation of discussion and debate at The New School.

This innovative interior organization is expressed in the exterior of the building. Tightly woven, purpose-built spaces clad in hand-finished brass shingles contrast with the open connective tissue of 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. Located 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.

With its 230,000-square-foot, seven-story campus center (located in the building’s base) and 130,000-square-foot residential tower, the University Center reimagines the organizing elements of a traditional campus, from quads to classrooms and living quarters. Vertical, horizontal, and diagonal campus pathways work together to facilitate movement through the building, while increasing opportunities for interaction among students and faculty from across the university. Academic spaces are flexible and easily adaptable, and can be renovated or reconfigured with minimal impact on power, data, or lighting to meet
changing needs.

Raw finishes and an exposed mechanical system further ensure flexibility in the academic spaces. To bring light into the 30,000-square-foot academic floor plates, clerestory windows line both walls of the main corridor. Horizontal windows and light shelves naturally illuminate classroom ceilings, reducing lighting loads.

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 through the building. 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, and encourage social interaction and interdisciplinary exchange.

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

To avoid crowded conditions and delays during class-change times in this vertical campus, peak elevator demand is mitigated through the combination of the intuitive system of stairways and a skip-stop elevator system. During peak times, the elevators stop at floors one, four, and six, and stairs are utilized to access the intermediate floors, while at off-peak times, the elevators stop at all floors.
Designed to meet LEED Gold certification from the US Green Building Council, the University Center sets 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.
Envisioned as a model of energy efficiency, carbon reduction, and sustainability, the building anticipates 31 percent energy savings over a code-compliant school. Both passive and high-tech solutions increase energy efficiency. The envelope of the building is limited to 35 percent glass, which decreases solar heat gain while optimizing interior daylighting. A green roof, funded in part by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, mitigates the heat-island effect, as well as storm-water runoff, capturing water for both gray-and black-water treatment facilities in the building.

The building serves as a living element of the curriculum, providing on-site training to the next generation of green leaders to students 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-the-house systems have been transformed into instructional spaces for New School students and facilities staff, as well as for professional organizations and unions, who are expected to use the building for hands-on training.

Location: New York - USA
Client: The New School
Completion: 2013
Gross Floor Area: 34,375 m2
Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Team: Roger Duffy, Mark Regulinski, Chris McCready, Jon Cicconi, Colin Koop, Angelo Arzano, Kimberly Garcia

Residential Architects: SLCE Architects
Construction Manager: Tishman
Structural: DeSimone Consulting Engineers
Civil: Langan Environmental & Engineering Services
MEP: Cosentini Associates
Acoustic: Cerami Associates
Lighting: Brandston Partnership
LEED and Energy Modeling: Buro Happold
Signage: Integral Reudi Baur Paris
Theater Design: Fisher Dachs Associates

Photography: © James Ewing

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