New York University’s Department of Social and Cultural Analysis (SCA) is interdisciplinary in nature, addressing topics and methodologies drawn from the humanities and social sciences. Its concentrations include Africana Studies, Asian/Pacific/American Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and Metropolitan Studies. This project involved the design of a new 16,400-square-foot departmental headquarters that would gather this diverse faculty in a single space for the first time. The variety of departmental identities made it vital that the design optimize the possibilities for interaction and collaboration within an existing floor plate, enabling faculty from different disciplines to engage with students and one another in a range of settings.
The brief—which included faculty and administrative offices, meeting rooms, and student spaces—called for maximizing the available square footage, locating faculty offices at the perimeter of the plan to allow access to windows. Although this is a conventional approach to office design, it typically results in corridors deprived of daylight and visual interest, and the deep floor plate that was to serve as the SCA site would exacerbate this tendency. The design therefore proposed to carve away these perimeter offices at strategic locations to introduce natural light to the interior of the plan and produce a series of public rooms. These collective spaces would enliven and expand the hallways and facilitate social interaction at multiple scales—from larger common areas to more intimate spaces for discussion and collaboration. The design thus operated on a principle of removal rather than addition, beginning with the most efficient programmatic distribution and then selectively eroding the plan to generate open space.