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What’s inside NYU’s $1.2 billion Paulson Center

NYU’s largest building will begin to host classes on Jan. 23, over 16 years after the university unveiled plans for the massive construction project.

January 22, 2023

A tall building complex with a glass exterior with traffic passing in front.

NYU’s 735,000-square-foot Paulson Center officially opens to students on Jan. 23 after its opening was postponed twice due to pandemic-related supply chain and labor issues. The building, which is now the largest owned by the university, will add 58 new classrooms to NYU’s Washington Square campus during the first phase of its opening.

During the course of the spring semester, additional academic and athletic facilities — including three theaters, an ensemble practice room, four basketball courts and a pool — will open in the $1.2 billion building. The Paulson Center is anticipated to be fully operational by the end of March, though water damage to the facility’s basketball courts may delay its opening.

A large open lobby with two stripes of lights on the ceiling. There are white tables on the left side and red sofa chairs on the right side. On the wall to the right hangs an art installation with strands of colorful wires.
The Paulson Center Commons on the second floor is an open space for students to study and socialize.

The complex also has several common spaces for students to relax or meet classmates, which university spokesperson John Beckman said came as a response to observed student needs. The biggest common area, located on the second floor, can also accommodate large events and lectures.

“One of the things that we heard a lot from students was an absence of lounge spaces, or even small community spaces,” Beckman told WSN. “You’d find students in stairwells in Kimmel, and this helps us begin to answer that. This is really our first space like this.”

An overhead view of a lounge with several sofa chairs by floor to ceiling windows. Outside the window is a lower-level terrace of the building.
The residence hall lounge located on the building's seventh floor.
An empty cafe with white shelves and counters. "Cafe one eight one at nyu” is written in all caps on one of the counters.
On the sixth floor, the Paulson Center houses a cafe and Crave NYU, a food court similar to those in the Upstein and Palladium dining halls. The dining facilities are set to open mid-February.
A quiet study room with white walls and several rows of white desks and black office chairs. The desks are separated from each other with boards made from glass and wood.
Quiet study and group study spaces are a much needed addition to the crowded rooms in Bobst Library.

Originally proposed in 2007, the Paulson Center is part of NYU’s 2031 expansion plan, which intends to add six million square feet to the university’s campus over the span of 25 years. The plan initially included four buildings, spread over two university-owned blocks in NoHo, but the proposal has since been whittled down to NYU’s current Core Plan, whose flagship project is the mixed-use Paulson Center.

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Prior to the facility’s construction, the university contained less than half of the amount of space per student than comparable academic institutions, which led to a classroom shortage. To address this issue, NYU began to lease classrooms at nearby St. John’s University in 2021, a practice the university is now discontinuing due to additional space at Paulson.

A classroom with a television hung on a white wall between two white boards. There are rows of gray chairs with small tables attached to them.
A classroom with white walls, two televisions hung on the two sides and a white board in the middle. The white tables and gray chairs are arranged to form a circle.

The Paulson Center’s three residential towers, which house 400 first-year students and 15 RAs, have already opened; RAs began moving in Jan. 13, and residents arrived on Jan. 18. The rooms are separated from publicly-accessible areas with a turnstile entrance on the sixth floor. 

Starting during the fall 2023 semester, all Paulson residents will participate in the first-year Paulson Residential College program, meaning that one of their academic courses will be composed completely of students living in the same hall. Similar to the university’s themed engagement communities, students will be required to submit an application to live in the residence hall and thereby participate in the program.

Paulson has single, double and triple occupancy rooms, as well as accessible rooms, which aim to improve the university’s ability to accommodate disabled students. The complex also adds 42 faculty apartments to campus, which are housed in a separate tower with its own entrance at the southeast corner of the building.

An entrance to a university residence hall with a public safety officer sitting behind a table next to four glass turnstiles. On the glass wall is a poster with the text “welcome to the paulson center residence hall” in all caps against a purple background. In front of the poster are four star shaped balloons floating in the air.
The residence hall's lobby, located on the building's sixth floor.
A dorm room with two single beds, two desks with shelves, and two chairs. Under each bed are two small cabinets. There is a window in between the two beds.
A double-occupancy dorm room inside the Paulson Center.

The new facility also has additional space for the Tisch School of the Arts and the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, including the university’s first proscenium theater, which has professional-grade capabilities. Two other theaters and a music performance space — all of which were designed with input from Tisch and Steinhardt faculty — are housed within the building.

A rehearsal room with a grand piano placed in the middle and floor to ceiling windows in the background. On the ceiling are acoustic installments in the shape of white circles.
An empty rehearsal room with wooden floors and a wall of floor to ceiling mirrors. There are gray curtains and a stack of chairs in front of the mirrors.
A small room with a grand piano wrapped in white paper placed against a wall. On the wall are gray acoustic panels made of fabric.

“Our architects worked in conjunction with them to make sure that every system that they wanted — or anything new that they wanted to explore — was integrated,” said Andre Pause, the graphics manager at Davis Brody Bond, an architectural firm that helped to design the building. “In some ways, the buildings are designed as much by Tisch and Steinhardt as they are by us.”

A large, dark theater with red seats and an empty stage.
The Cantor Proscenium Theatre will host its first event in late March.
A black box theater with all black structures, floors, and grandstands.
A photo from the back of the stage inside a theater to an empty audience. There are four layers of black curtains hung above the stage and three people standing on the stage. Two carts of construction materials are behind them.

The center also has two basement levels dedicated to sports and recreation, which include a pool, a four-court basketball area with seating, cardio and weightlifting equipment, martial arts rooms and squash courts. These athletic facilities replace the Jerome S. Coles Sports Center, a university athletic facility that was demolished in 2016 and 2017.

An indoor basketball court with white walls and two grandstands with purple seats on the two sides. The floor is partially covered with cardboard. Screens on the wall are displaying the logo of New York University’s athletic teams.
The multi-use basketball courts with retractable grandstands.
An empty indoor swimming pool with purple walls and a floor with grid patterns surrounding it.
The building's six-lane pool is scheduled to open in early February.
An empty squash court with glass doors and white walls.
The squash courts located on the sub-basement level are set to open at the end of January.

In addition to student and faculty needs, NYU administration considered sustainability in the design and construction of the Paulson Center, with particular emphasis on energy efficiency. The all-glass facade of the building would typically allow sunlight to heat the building and require intensive cooling. To combat this solar heating, architects placed wedge-shaped protrusions along key points of the building to reduce heat and prevent intense light exposure.

Several modern red arm chairs placed next to windows with a view of the city outside.
The Paulson Center's window designs reduce heat from direct sunlight.

Exterior glass is also marked with fritting — small printed designs which resemble QR codes — to reduce solar heating and prevent bird collisions. Glass buildings generally pose safety concerns to birds, who cannot distinguish between glass reflections and clear skies. Fritted glass signals to birds that there is something solid in the way.

Fritting stickers on building windows of different density.
Fritting markers, meant to reduce heat and bird collisions, can be seen on the windows throughout the building.

“Starting with aggressive recycling during demolition of the predecessor building on the site, the Coles Sports and Recreation Center, sustainability has played a key role in the construction and design of the Paulson Center,” said Carol Ourivio, an NYU spokesperson. “We are thrilled to be able to offer state of the art facilities while furthering NYU’s commitment to sustainability.”

Contact Tori Morales at [email protected] and Kevin Wu at [email protected].

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