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NEW YORK — The University Center, the sprawling 375,000-square-foot hub of The New School, will officially open its doors Thursday on the university’s Greenwich Village campus.
This story first appeared in the January 22, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Home to Parsons The New School for Design, the striking space will also house other New School divisions such as Eugene Lang College, The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, Mannes College The New School for Music, The New School for Drama, The New School for Public Engagement and The New School for Social Research. The $352 million project marks the integration of the School of Fashion, which had been located in both Greenwich Village and Midtown (560 Seventh Avenue), into the Greenwich Village campus. The 560 Seventh Avenue location has since been sold.
The University Center, at Fifth Avenue and 14th Street, was designed by Robert Duffy of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill with the goal of being a space for active collaboration and interdisciplinary learning. The building’s centerpiece, prominently visible from the outside, is a grand, sweeping staircase that connects all the floors and forms landing points throughout the building to promote interaction, communication and collaboration.
“It’s the single thing that will enable and enforce collaboration,” said Simon Collins, dean of the School of Fashion at Parsons, noting that the stairs are wide enough for students to hang out on them. “This is their campus…anything we can do to enable students to talk to each other. They work so hard, and real life is collaboration,” said Collins.
The New School has an enrollment of 10,000 students, 5,000 of which are Parsons students. Fashion studies account for 1,700 of the Parsons students. Collins noted that the School of Fashion will take two floors of the 16-story building.
The space has 57 state-of-the art classrooms and studio space; a full cafeteria; a two-level library housing more than 70,000 books, and a new auditorium with 600 to 800 seats that features New York City’s first convertible stage that can be reconfigured for fashion shows, lectures and theater productions, as well as seven floors of student residencies with 600 beds. The student residencies opened last August. The classroom’s walls have video cameras to facilitate Parsons’ classes in India and Paris studying the same thing simultaneously. The center will also have 400 sewing machines, as well as special machines such as laser cutters and 3-D printers. Parsons plans to host the end-of-the-year student fashion show and benefit at the new center.
In addition to the University Center, Parsons will continue to occupy the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at 66 Fifth Avenue and a building at 25 East 13th Street for its varied programs. Collins said it hasn’t been decided yet whether “Project Runway” will tape its TV show at the new University Center. It was previously shot at 560 Seventh Avenue.
The University Center was funded by selling the Midtown location, issuing a bond and private donations, said Collins. The center is a completely sustainable building, with the LEED Gold rating. The recent water main break on Fifth Avenue and 13th Street caused water damage to the two bottom floors, which house the gym and an event café, which won’t open with the rest of the building Thursday.
Numerous VIP receptions and celebrations will take place over the next few days, including the grand opening on Thursday morning with Sarah Jessica Parker in attendance, as well as City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.
The opening-day celebration will be followed by a weeklong series of events for the university and general public. This will include a conversation Monday night between Millard “Mickey” Drexler, chairman and chief executive officer of J. Crew Group Inc., and Paul Goldberger, Joseph Urban Professor of Design at Parsons, to celebrate the School of Fashion’s move downtown.