Project DescriptionThe Center for Academic and Spiritual Life at New York University brings together students and scholars from a wide variety of religious backgrounds into one multi-faith and multi-function building on the NYU campus. This ambitious project, recently completed in January, 2012, provides multi-denominational sacred spaces to be shared by a multiplicity of faiths within a single facility. Because it is intended to provide a home for the dozens of underserved religious organizations on the NYU campus, the design strives to provide a strong expression of the spiritual mission of the building without relying on a singular religious iconography. We proposed that the ‘Tree of Life,’ an image which is shared by all major faiths, be the inspiration for the façade. The image of the tree, with all of its positive connotations (growth, expansive, spreading out of a common root, natural, providing shelter, food, beauty, etc.) together with the strong western architectural tradition of using ornamental motives based on natural forms, particular leaves, were two additional elements that provided even more impulse to the idea of the ‘tree of life.’
We developed a system of water jet cut, laminated limestone panels that grows upward from a heavier base near the building entrance to a lighter and more delicate screen as the building reaches the sky. The tree of life is an especially poignant image within the hyper-urbanity of the Manhattan site. The inclusive and inviting building serves the entire campus community with classrooms, meeting rooms, offices, and music practice facilities. The unique Global Conference Center is designed to bring together students and faculty from NYU’s campuses around the world and incorporates state of the art multimedia systems to provide the infrastructure for this dialog. The project is located in a highly visible location on the south side of Washington Square Park in New York City. When approaching from the north, the site is directly on axis with 5th Avenue and is framed by the view through the Washington Memorial Arch. The project represents New York University’s design excellence initiative and will achieve a LEED Gold rating.