University Center 2014: A New Home

It was not the pandemonium typically associated with move-in day. Four large bins on wheels sat idly in a line, as a few security guards paced the sectioned-off portion of an intersection now long-used to construction. Then, a minivan broke gait with the mass of taxis on 5th Avenue, and pulled in. Tsige Tafesse slid open the door, two pillows in hand, and heaved a sigh of relief.

“I drove eight hours today to get here,” she said, exhausted. A feat, considering it was only just noon. Her fatigue quickly faded, however, as she looked up at the 16 stories of the University Center.  It was August 16th, and the freshman BFA in Dramatic Arts student had arrived for move in day.

Tafesse, of course, was not the only student moving into the dorms at 65 Fifth Avenue—though having made a straight shot from Seattle, she might have spent the most time getting there in a car.  616 other bright-eyed and bushy-tailed freshmen, transfer, and returning students have now spent the past two weeks making the top eight floors of the University Center their new home.

Construction crew members work on the entrance to the dormitories of the University Center on August 17, 2013.

An orientation leader gives directions to a new student outside the entrance to the University Center dorms during move-in weekend in mid-August. The University Center opens to the rest of The New School community and the public in January.

Students gather supplies while moving into the dormitories in the new University Center.

Parsons freshman Nina Chang rides up the elevator to the floor of her dorm room in the University Center on August 17, 2013.

Chang unlocks the door to her dorm room.

Chang begins unpacking her luggage.

Students move in to the University Center Dorms (Kerrey Hall) on 8/16/13

Students move in to the University Center Dorms (Kerrey Hall) on 8/16/13

Parsons transfer student Tharun Aravazhi unlocks to door to his dorm room.

Aravazhi begins unpacking his belongings.

Eugene Lang College freshman Darius Margalith begins unloading his belongings in his dorm room.

Orientation leader and Eugene Lang College senior Patty Rhodes gives a tour of the student resident space on the lower level of the University Center during move-in weekend. The University Center opens to the rest of The New School community and the public in January.

A security guard gives directions to incoming students during orientation weekend outside the entrance to the University Center.

“Just look at this place,” Tafesse exclaimed outside the building while holding steady one of the bins she’d crammed with dorm essentials—pretzels, a pack of Twizzlers, some toilet paper, juice and more. “It’s gorgeous. I don’t know when I’m going to live again in such a beautiful place.”  The building, designed to reflect and enhance The New School’s core values of design, innovation, and social engagement, will open fully in January 2014. From then, the entire New School community will have access to the Event Café (featuring a neon artwork by Glenn Ligon), a two-level library, state-of-the-art classrooms, and an 800-seat auditorium.

The design of the University Center is already attracting praise. This summer, Mayor Michael Bloomberg  visited The New School to announce his administration’s new Active Design policies, an initiative encouraging architects and planners to design in a way that emphasizes physical activity. He described the new building as “spectacular” because the staircases, which facilitate open communication across all divisions of the university, also encourage physical movement.

For now, just a lucky few student residents have the opportunity to explore the crown on the much-anticipated building. Unlocking her door on the 11th floor, Tafesse nearly squealed with delight at the crisp, cool interior of her bedroom. “This building is so beautiful, I’m not sure I’ll ever want to leave,” she said. Granted, but let’s not forget: the rest of New York City is pretty grand, too.

Be sure to check back with the New_S in the coming months for in-depth stories on University Center features.

WATCH: Check out a video of students moving into the dorms at the University Center earlier this month.