The New School Opens New University Center

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16-Story Building Embodies Vision of Transformed University

The New School's University Center (Photo: Martin Seck, 2014)

The New School today opens its new University Center – a campus hub with living, academic and performance space – to students for the start of the spring semester.

Located on the corner of 14th street and Fifth Avenue, the University Center is The New School’s largest building project to date, adding 375,000 square feet of space to the university’s West Village campus.

Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s Roger Duffy, the University Center is a space for active collaboration and interdisciplinary learning—cornerstones of the philosophy of The New School. Its centerpiece, visible from the outside, are grand “communicating stairs,” connecting all academic levels and forming convenient landing points throughout the building to promote interaction, communication and collaboration.

The building’s features include 57 state-of-the-art classrooms, studios and instructional spaces; nine floors of dormitories housing 600 students; and a two-level library and student study center, the Arnhold Forum. The 800-seat John L. Tishman Auditorium features a convertible stage for theater productions, fashion shows and lectures.

The University Center provides a new focal point for The New School, accommodating all disciplines of the university that in the past two decades has grown into international hub of innovation in the social sciences, arts, and design. The building will be used by all schools and disciplines within the university, without permanently assigned classrooms.

“The University Center embodies The New School’s vision, to serve as a university where design and social research drive approaches to studying pressing issues of the time,” said David E. Van Zandt, president of The New School. “The University Center provides a vital new resource for The New School, creating New York’s next great center of intellectual and creative engagement, a central meeting point for students and faculty across all disciplines.”

“We designed a vertical campus for The New School, effectively accommodating the needs of an entire university within a single building,” explained Roger Duffy, FAIA, Design Partner at SOM. “Living and learning spaces are linked together with horizontal, vertical and diagonal campus pathways, providing students with more opportunities for the types of interactions and chance encounters that are vital to discussion and debate.”

The University Center’s “grand avenue” of stairs connects the first seven academic floors. Wide and open, they encourage not only healthful activity, but also relieve pressure on the elevators during peak traffic times, such as when classes begin and end. Additionally, the staircases form communicative landing points—or “skyquads”—for students and faculty to stop, interact, and exchange ideas.

A multiuse space on the lower lever, the Event Café, also allows for impromptu meetings, performances, and resting areas. This space will house a permanent installation by conceptual artist Glenn Ligon featuring verses of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass in neon pink across the top of walls of the café. Additional site-specific art and design includes an installation by Düsseldorf-based American artist Rita McBride, and an original wayfinding system by renowned graphic designer Ruedi Baur.

The University Center is one of New York City’s greenest buildings, with a LEED Gold rating and industry-leading solutions to curbing energy use. Using state-of-the-art lighting and window placement, sustainably sourced materials, and a rain-catching green roof (funded in part by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection), the building simultaneously advances urban conservation while acting as teaching tool for the next generation of sustainability leaders.

On the morning of Thursday, January 23, President Van Zandt presided over a ceremony inaugurating the University Center that included remarks from Sarah Jessica Parker, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, New York City Council Member Corey Johnson, New School Board of Trustees Chair Joe Gromek, and University Center lead architect Roger Duffy. That evening, the University Center was celebrated with speeches by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Pulitzer-prize winning architecture critic and New School professor Paul Goldberger, designer and former Parsons student Tracy Reese; and performances by musicians David Krakauer, Marcus Strickland, and more.

Opening events for the university and general public continue this week. See the event listing on the University Center web page for more information.

Click here to download a complete press kit (80.7 mb), including photographs, an architects statement, leadership biographies and more. Contact Sam Biederman, Director of Communications, The New School at biederms(at)newschool(dot)edu for more information and additional materials.

Founded in 1919, The New School was born out of principles of academic freedom, tolerance, and experimentation. Committed to social engagement, The New School today remains in the vanguard of innovation in higher education, with more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students challenging the status quo in design and the social sciences, liberal arts, management, the arts, and media. The New School welcomes thousands of adult learners annually for continuing education courses and calendar of lectures, screenings, readings, and concerts. Through its online learning portals, research institutes, and international partnerships, The New School maintains a global presence. Learn more at

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Sam Biederman
The New School
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