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Sense of Place

Innovation Center at The New School

University Business, October 2015
  • Some of the halls in The New School’s Innovation Center are lined with desks and stools on wheels, so they can easily be pushed together for group study
  • Many of The New School's classroom walls are whiteboards for further collaboration.

Located in downtown Manhattan, the 23,000-square-foot Innovation Center at The New School is an AV-intensive facility that’s open 24/7.

The flexible space has become a hub for collaborative, cross-disciplinary learning for the institution’s nearly 10,000 students, who are spread out on a fragmented urban campus.

CHALLENGE

New School officials wanted to create a destination where students and faculty could come together to socialize, learn and create—or study individually. Newer technology not being fully utilized and functional in older spaces was also posing a problem, says Lia Gartner, vice president of buildings.

In addition, the project team considered the different demands placed on learning spaces throughout the day, and the ways in which people collaborate and how interdisciplinary studies come together. “The new space had to provide flexible options so that several types of learning could be accommodated,” she says.

SOLUTION

The Innovation Center, which takes up the entire sixth floor of a building on E. 16th Street, is open and minimalist with a contemporary art gallery feel, says Jim Crispino, president and design principal at architecture firm Francis Cauffman. “Not only can students create work here, they can also use the Innovation Center to display their work.”

Walls are either glass or painted white. Some of them open up to create larger or smaller spaces, depending on the needs of students and faculty. Other walls are designed to be written on. The Innovation Center includes a learning hub with advanced classrooms, drop-in and instructional computer labs, lounges and a reconfigurable event hall.

On top of that, many of the furniture pieces are on wheels, making them easily rearrangeable for individual or group work. “Our goal was to take flexibility to another level,” Crispino says.

  • COMPLETED: January 2015
  • COST: $4 million
  • PROJECT TEAM: Francis Cauffman (New York), designer —L.W.

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