A Hive of Activities at The New School

Talk about transparency:

The New School’s just-opened University Center brings together a bundle of disciplines and functions – making them clear to see from the outside while opening up the vitality of the city to those inside.

“It’s an interdisciplinary hub for the university — it contains schools for fashion, the humanities and science, and there’s assembly space, a library and a cafeteria,” says Roger Duffy, design partner at SOM in New York. “We wanted it to be interactive, to blend together all these disciplines, instead of their being siloed.

On top of it all is a 600-bed dormitory that’s now a residence for a large portion of the student body.

The 375,000-square-foot structure, sited at the intersection of 14th Street and Fifth Avenue, takes maximum advantage of its location.

By designing a system of circulation that’s both horizontal and vertical, it creates a strong sense of community through interpersonal interaction. Rather than relying on elevators to move people throughout, the architects chose to place fire stairs on the building’s façade. The result is that students inside are always navigating the city while observing the different strata of New York. Simultaneously, those outside can readily experience the energy of the school.

“From the outside, people in the public realm can see a hive of activities, because those stairs also intersect with hubs up in the sky,” he says. “The New School lives and breathes on the sidewalks of New York, so we’ve wrapped them around the building.”

A typical university plan might call for separate structures for all its varying functions, but The New School wanted to bring them together in one building. SOM’s design embraces the concept, with vigor.

“It suggests a confluence or a weaving together,” he says. “This architecture is about bringing together all those existing activities.”

And revealing them to the world.

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