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NYU Picks 9/11 Museum Architect to Design New Building in Village

By Danielle Tcholakian | December 17, 2014 4:13pm
 NYU 2031 will create the buildings in white on the two large Greenwich Village blocks bordered by LaGuardia Place and Mercer, West Houston and West Third streets.
NYU 2031 will create the buildings in white on the two large Greenwich Village blocks bordered by LaGuardia Place and Mercer, West Houston and West Third streets.
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GREENWICH VILLAGE — New York University's newest building will be designed by the same firm behind the underground 9/11 Memorial Museum, NYU announced Wednesday.

Davis Brody Bond, which designed the powerful museum at the World Trade Center, will join KieranTimberlake to plan the new NYU building at the Coles Gym site on Mercer Street between Houston and Bleecker streets, officials announced. 

The Coles site is the first parcel of land slated for development under NYU’s controversial expansion plan, which only allows the school to develop one new building at a time.

The two design firms were chosen “first and foremost… for their reputation for design excellence," said Alison Leary, NYU’s executive vice president for operations, in a statement.

“NYU understands it will be held to a high standard for architectural excellence,” Leary added. “These firms have won some of the most prestigious awards in the fields of architecture and design, and the exceptional quality of their work has earned them some of the most prominent commissions of our day.”

The building planned for the Coles site will hold classrooms, performing arts space and a new gym, as well as some student and faculty housing.

Davis Brody Bond is a 62-year-old New York-based firm with a history of working with academic institutions, including multiple projects for Columbia University. The firm designed the underground portion of the 9/11 Memorial Museum and worked on the outdoor 9/11 Memorial as well.

KieranTimberlake has designed buildings for several universities, including Harvard, Yale, Wellesley and Penn State, as well as the United States Embassy in London.

Leary pointed to the firms’ experience with universities as an indication that “they understand not only the unique academic needs, but also the consultative and collaborative manner in which universities go about their business.”

Renderings for the building are not available yet, NYU representatives said, because the architects plan to base their design on feedback from a “process of consultation” with stakeholders within the university and the neighborhood.

A university spokesman said the specifics of that process, including who the stakeholders are, will be available in early 2015.

The Coles gym site is the first of the four buildings planned for the NYU 2031 plan to expand the school's Greenwich Village campus. It was approved by the City Council in 2012, though it faced opposition from a vocal group of residents, some school faculty, local elected officials and celebrities, including Mark Ruffalo and John Leguizamo.

Opponents of the plan tried to block it with a lawsuit but lost in an appellate ruling in October. They are currently waiting to see whether New York's Court of Appeals will hear the case.

Tobi Bergman, newly elected chair of Community Board 2 and an opponent of NYU's expansion, expressed concern about the future of the Coles site.

"Architecture cannot work miracles," Bergman said. "Davis Brody Bond and KieranTimberlake are stuck with a plan that calls for a massive building that will be an overbearing presence on Mercer Street and will crowd the University Village block. 

"I.M. Pei's towers will lose the grace given by the space around them. In that unfortunate context, we can only hope for the best."