“Yes, we have a love of stairs,” Lia Gartner announced to a sea of builders, educators, and contractors, who chuckled at the statement. It wasn’t the first time this sentiment had been acknowledged. Even in the midst of her presentation to the New York Building Congress Higher Education Committee, the Vice President for Design, Construction and Facilities Management at The New School had mentioned stairs many times. And for good reason, which she outlined before the members committed to promoting the sustainable growth of the construction industry in New York City.
The stairs Gartner was describing, of course, are those inside the soon-to-be-open University Center. Connecting each of the lower seven floors of the new building, the “grand avenue” of staircases promote not only healthful activity, but the multiple public landing spaces they create also encourage interaction and communication, as Gartner explained to the committee.
Gartner also detailed other aspects of the design during her presentation. The stairs also relieve pressure on the elevator system, where a single bell schedule in a tall building can complicate the process of students moving between classes. The University Center has also reinvented the fire stair, where a covered staircase sits directly below the open one, leading people directly out of the building. But more than these unique architectural features, the stairs offer versatility, a key component of the new building’s design.
“We’re forever after flexibility,” said Gartner, mentioning every urban academic building’s struggle with limited space, combined with a need for multiple-use classrooms. “The stairs carry infrastructure, students, and even light into the center of the building.”
Gartner finished her presentation by articulating the University Center’s dependence on stairs, something otherwise unusual in a tall building in Manhattan. “They act as a central navigation tool,” she said, “and connect each of the public spaces on the first seven floors.” For more information on the University Center, visit the website. Stay tuned for more stories on The New School’s new academic hub, which opens for classes in January 2014.