The New School’s University Center on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 14th Street in New York is being opened with a week of inclusive events including an official ceremony today (23 January) and an open house event (25 January). Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), the 375,000 sq ft facility blends teaching space and residential units for students in a manner that reflects the free and experimental ethos of the institution.
As President of The New School, David Van Zandt explains: “The University Center boldly embodies The New School’s commitment to creativity, innovation, challenging to the status quo, and education through social engagement. With its collaborative learning spaces, state-of-the-art performance spaces and studios, and striking exteriors, the University Center uniquely encourages experimentation, exchange, and engagement with our city and our world.”
In order to foster this collaborative approach to learning, SOM has accentuated the opportunity for chance encounters and cross-disciplinary interaction as students and tutors move through the building. The 7-storey campus centre offers a range of options to those travelling between classes or to the 130,000 sq ft of residential space on the upper floors.
Users may select to use the lift systems which, during peak times, stop only at levels one, four and six, meaning that those wishing to access the intermediate floors must then use the stairs. The other option through the vertical campus is to use one of two stairways: a fire stair for swift circulation or a wider ‘communicating stair’ where users can travel at a slower pace and socialise with their peers. These staircases are highlighted in the external façade by rivers of glazing.
The exterior of The New School’s University Campus is clad in hand-finished brass shingles in light of the proximity to the brownstones of the Greenwich Village Historic District and the cast-iron facades of the Ladies’ Mile Historic District. These tonal elements are spliced through by wide panels of glass which trace the circulation channels within, shedding natural light deep within the campus building.
"The University Center transforms the traditional university environment," details Roger Duffy, FAIA, Design Partner at SOM. "Rather than compartmentalising living and learning spaces, we strategically stacked these functions to create a vertical campus that supports the kind of interdisciplinary learning that has defined The New School since its founding."
Sitting atop the 230,000 sq ft of design studios, laboratories, classrooms, library areas, social spaces and flexible learning rooms is 130,000 sq ft of student residential space. Capable of hosting more than 600 students over 8 storeys, this section of the University Center is supported by amenities available only to those living onsite, including further art studios, a gym, soundproof music practice rooms, laundry facilities, a study hall and a mailroom.
Envisioned as a model of energy efficiency, carbon reduction, and sustainability, the building anticipates 31% energy savings over a base-case school. Both passive and high-tech solutions increase energy efficiency. The shingled cladding shades the windows up to 20% during daylight hours. An ice-storage system, located in the second basement, uses electricity from the power grid during off-peak times to freeze water in a series of chambers; the ice melts during the day, reducing consumption during peak times. Heat recovery wheels gather heat from exhaust air and help heat supply air, saving energy.
Official images of the design are yet to be released.