Post Human New School University Center (13th St)

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Here’s the brand new New School University Center on 13th and 5th Avenue. I like how this big monster complements the mid-century St. Vincent Hospital’s O’Toole Medical Services Building just down the street on 7th Avenue. The old and new modern city frames old-old Greenwich Village, architecturally. Placed at an intersection where a sleepy street like W.13th St meets a big avenue, these kinds of bold assertive buildings warp and dynamize the sense of time that surrounds the urban fabric.

As for public space and the idea of architecture as social interaction, this is how NYT architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff evokes it. “The glass-walled staircases, which look as if they have been gouged into the facade with a gigantic router, are an assertive counterpoint to the standoffishness, an effort to create a strong visual bond with the neighborhood — the illusion that the flow of bodies along the street is being sucked right up through the building.

The idea of a contemporary (as opposed to modern) building like this one is to open up the building, in this case a University, to the city which it simultaneously pulls in. This is the main point made by Ouroussoff in his review of the building. What strikes me more is the alien effect of high concept architecture, namely the presence of a brass-skinned form that catches you up short the first time you see it, embedded there in the human environment. These days, architecture is post-human.

I like these new buildings. They excite a visual sense. But are they social, the power represented and instantiated by these big new things? As the University Center sucks you in with that rush of tremendous force, will it spit you out or chew you into pieces? What kinds of spectacles, illuminations, and mutations await the city and its subjects inside this new time-crystal palace?

You can read Ouroussoff’s review here:

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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