The Center for Data Science is proud to announce that we have relocated to the historic Forbes Building on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan! To celebrate the change in location, we talked with Maria Lavin, the Senior Project Manager who oversaw the remodeling and construction of the new space.
Can you talk about the initial stages of planning for the new space?
Originally, the building was supposed to be designated for administrative units, but given the building’s history and location, it was later decided that the building would be more suitable for academic departments and classrooms. Once it was decided that the Center for Data Science would occupy the sixth and seventh floors, NYU’s Strategic Assessment & Planning Department met with all involved parties to discuss and develop their programming needs. When the building was designated for administrative units, most of the construction was going to be cosmetic upgrades, with limited construction. But when it was decided that academic departments were going to be housed, we decided to do a full remodel.
The Center for Data Science has a lot of moving components to it: faculty, students, post-doc researchers, and a plethora of events. When constructing the new space, how did you juggle all of these competing interests?
There were two competing ideas that needed to be balanced for the CDS space: private, more structured faculty offices, and a more flexible area that could accommodate a host of events. Those two requests do not necessarily work together, so it was determined to have two different floors: a quiet floor, the sixth floor, predominantly occupied by offices, and a noisy floor, the seventh floor, where people could collaborate on projects, and congregate for events and presentations.
Can you talk about the design philosophy of the new space?
The building is square in shape, with windows on two facades (north & east) and limited windows on the west façade. One of the principal design goals was to bring in as much natural light into the interior spaces as possible. There was also a desire for exterior views to help establish a sense of connection to the outside world. To help with this orientation, the architect created what they call Broadway (an open bay that runs north-south from the elevators to a lounge area at the south windows) and 42nd Street (an open bay that runs east-west from the pantry to a small lounge area on the east side).
One of the big appeals about the Center for Data Science is the interdisciplinary nature of the research taking place here. Can you talk about how the space helps inspires collaborative work between students, faculty members, and researchers?
There are many open areas, and lounge areas that all allow for people to congregate. Also, with the extensive amount of glass at the private offices, no-one will feel cut off from the rest of the space. On the 7th floor, there is also an open gathering area adjacent to the pantry. This was designed as an open space to encourage people to sit with their coffee and work together.
Events are a huge part of the Center for Data Science’s offering, could you talk about the event space in the new office?
There is a lovely open area on the southwest corner of the 7th floor that has windows on two sides and will have projection capability. The tables in this area can all be moved to the side (or out of the space) and seats can be brought and set up in rank and file configuration (or no seats if preferred) for gatherings, presentations and other events.
Could you talk about some of the new technology that is being integrated into the reconstructed building?
All the light fixtures (with the exception of the historic lobby) are new LED fixtures. The building infrastructure was completely removed and new infrastructure was built, so all the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems are energy efficient.
What are some of the amenities and features that have been designed with the CDS students in mind?
The entire south side of the first floor is an open student lounge. There will be furniture (tables, benches, chairs) all appropriate for study, as well as lounging, with additional electrical outlets to provide convenient study/work areas for the students.
What is something surprising about the new space, something that you don’t think people would think about?
From the exterior the building appears very solid and “heavy.” I think that once people are inside the building they will have the opposite feeling: that it is in fact very light and full of energy.