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University Plaza, New York University

George Cserna
George Cserna

NYU experienced a housing crisis as it transitioned from commuter college to residential university. The City of New York transferred part of an urban renewal site to NYU, stipulating that one-third of new housing be reserved for moderate-income cooperatives under the state’s Mitchell-Lama Act. Three 30-story towers satisfy the requirement for 534 apartments: two towers for NYU faculty and graduate students, the third for Mitchell Lama. Each tower was programmed separately, but all conformed to the same budget and spatial constraints, and all shared the same architectural vocabulary so that the project reads as a unified whole. With great refinement, the architectural concrete towers are slenderized by dividing their mass into more narrow vertical fields of skeletally framed windows and solid sheer walls.

At ground level, the towers are directional with separate entry sequences for NYU and Mitchell Lama. Their different orientations notwithstanding, the three towers collectively define a central sculpture court anchored by Picasso’s 36-foot-high concrete bust of Sylvette (the first of its kind in the western hemisphere).

University Plaza received the Concrete Industry Board Award in 1966, and the following year received the Albert S. Bard Award from the City Club of New York and a national Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects.


Location plan / Courtesy of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners

Design Team: I.M. Pei, Design Partner; James Ingo Freed, Design Architect
I.M. Pei & Associates