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NYU DEPARTMENT OF PHILOSOPHY
New York, NY, United States, 2004-September 2007

PROGRAM: NYU Department of Philosophy Faculty Offices and Graduate Student Offices, Seminar Rooms, Periodicals Library and Lounge with a Ground Floor 120-seat Auditorium to be used by the NYU Faculty of Arts
CLIENT: New York University
SIZE: 30.000 sf
STATUS: completed

The Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences and a committee of Philosophy Professors collaborated in the selection of Steven Holl Architects to design the complete interior renovation of an 1890 corner building at 5 Washington Place for the consolidation of the New York University Department of Philosophy within a concept which organizes the new spaces around light and phenomenal properties of materials.

A new stair shaft below a new skylight joins the 6-level building vertically with a shifting porosity of light and shadow that change seasonally. Prismatic film was installed on the south-facing stairwell windows which occasionally break the sunlight into a prismatic rainbow. The Ground level, utilized by the entire University, contains a new curvilinear wooden auditorium on a cork floor. The upper level floors contain Faculty Offices and Seminar Rooms which are done in different shades and textures of black & white, according to the texts in Ludwig Wittgenstein's book 'Remarks on Colour'.

The building exists within the NoHo Historic District and is within the jurisdiction of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. The building is part of the main NYU campus within New York City's Greenwich Village and is sited on access to Washington Square Park.
'Porosity is realized most spectacularly in the main stairwell that runs up the southeastern corner of the six-story building. (...) Holl's predominant use of white (...) loads the interior with meaning and encourages flexibility in interpretation. At the same time, all the project's apertures and moving elements initiate a social and architectural dynamism that seems just right for a place of mental gymnastics.'
-David Sokol, Architectural Record
'The most insightful historic preservationists today question the reflex to embalm. Architect Steven Holl worked a bit of new/old magic in a modest overhaul of the university's nearby philosophy building.'
-Bloomberg.com
'Mr. Holl has created a bright, airy space ornamented with profusely perforated white walls and panels, white-painted distressed brick walls, and smooth, whitewashed walls. Some of the perforated panels angle as in a German Expressionist stage set, and felicitously coexist with the original cast-iron columns (...) and blond wood floors and benches. Here three things come together: a designated landmark building with a beautifully preserved exterior and a surprising number of original interior details.'
-New York Sun
'A new stair shaft below a new skylight joins the 6-level building vertically with a shifting porosity of light and shadow that change seasonally.'
-a+u
'The element that characterizes the project is the staircase with irregular flights and lighting that runs the full height of the building. (...) On the upper floors, the volume of the staircase invades the space of the offices with the irregular shape of the perforated wooden panels which filter light from the stairwell.'
-Lotus 133
'With wide, open platforms and a huge four-foot-by-four-foot skylight, the new staircase is designed so that students and teachers can see one another from different angles as they ascend and descend the stair.'
-Audrey Jaynes, The Architect's Newspaper
'The quiet, the generosity of the spaces - the ratio between the height and width of the corridors, the dark cork floors, and the cadence of the wide office doors, made of ash that is whitewashed on one side and ebonized on the other, with the pivots enabling both sides to be seen at once - creates an environment considerate of thought and discourse that really manages, I feel, to express philosophy in architectural terms.'
-Arthur C. Danto, Artforum
'The space then leads into a 120-seat lecture theater where all surfaces-floor, walls, and ceiling-are covered with cork sheet. The warmth of the room is further enhanced with natural-wood seating. The space is already so popular with faculty and students alike that it's booked all day, every day for lectures and meetings.'
-Tim McKeough, Frame
'The Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences and a committee of Philosophy Professors collaborated in the selection of Steven Holl Architects to design the complete interior renovation of a 1890 corner building at 5 Washington Place for the consolidation of the NYU Department or Philosophy within a concept which organizes the new spaces around light and phenomenal properties of materials. A new stair shaft below a new skylight joins the 6-level building vertically with a shifting porosity of light and shadow that change seasonally. The Ground level, utilized by the entire University, contains a new curvilinear auditorium on a cork floor. The upper level floors contain Faculty Offices and Seminar Rooms which are done in different shades and textures of black & white, according to the texts in Ludwig Wittgenstein's book "Remarks on Colour".'
-GA Document 100
'(...) Inspired by Ludwig Wittgenstein's "Remarks on Colour," Holl created a series of polarizing bars in each level which create the entire colour spectrum from the rays of natural light that pour into the building in which no other colour is in use. These shafts of light penetrate the central floor space through a series of perforated planes tilted gently at unexpected angles. (...) Holl engages these appearances of natural light not only to reproduce these very different shadow patterns, but also to create the condition for our heightened awareness; sensations become an object of the mind. (...) Perception for a moment must forgo what it has learned, what keeps it within the confines of discourse, in order to surrender itself more profoundly to the object of experience and be possessed by it.'
-Yehuda Safran, Abitare
'Holl has unveiled his newest, most poetic space to date (...). Holl's studio transformed the straightforward program (...) with a single spatial element that encourages interaction.'
-Azure
AWARDS

AIA NEW YORK EDUCATIONAL DESIGN AWARD, USA, 2008
CREDITS

architect
– Steven Holl Architects
Steven Holl (design architect)
Tim Bade (partner in charge)
Edward Lalonde (project architect)
Ernest Ng (assistant project architect)
Lesley Chang, Nick Gelpi, JongSeo Lee, Irene Vogt, Ebbie Wisecarver, Clark Manning (project team)

structural engineer
– Robert Silman Associates

MEP Engineer
– Ambrosino Depinto & Schmeider (ADS)

lighting consultant
– Renfro Design Group

audio/visual consultant
– Ove Arup & Partners

acoustical consultant
– Shen Milsom & Wilke

security consultant
– C.H. Guernsey & Company

construction manager
– F.J. Sciame Construction Co., Inc.
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