University Plaza, New York University

This 750,000-square foot project was undertaken to accommodate the housing shortage experienced by NYU in its transition from a commuter college to residential university.

Executed on the remainder of an urban renewal area, the City of New York had transferred sponsorship of the development to NYU on the provision that one third of the residential units erected be reserved for moderate-income cooperatives under the state’s Mitchell-Lama Act.

The resulting complex includes three 30-story towers, two for NYU’s graduate students and faculty and a third for the required public co-ops. Both components of the development were programmed separately, although they were uniformly governed by strict Mitchell-Lama budget and space limitations and visually unified by the site’s requirement for a single urban space created by an architectural whole. The entrance arcades of the two university buildings lead onto a landscaped plaza while the co-op tower opens onto its own mews off West Broadway.

Show Facts

5 acres, at Bleecker Street and West Broadway, on the eastern edge of Greenwich Village


747,000 ft2 / 69,000 m2 gross area; three apartment towers, underground parking, professional offices, landscaped private mews and public plaza, sculpture by Picasso


Dormitory Authority of the State of New York; Washington Square Southeast Apartments, Inc.

PCF&P Services

Master planning, architecture, exterior envelope, interior design of public spaces

lead designers

I. M. Pei
James Ingo Freed


National Honor Award
American Institute of Architects, 1967

New York City Landmark Designation
The Landmarks Preservation Commission, City of New York, 2008

Concrete Industry Board Award
Concrete Industry Board, 1966

Albert S. Bard Award
City Club of New York, 1967

As the requisite size of the 534-unit development precluded continuity of the surrounding Greenwich Village scale, tall, slender shafts were designed in counterpoint. Each shaft follows a pinwheel plan with solid sheer walls and skeletal grids extending out from the central core to break the tower masses into smaller, more vertical elements.
The towers collectively define a central urban space, green, open and dominated by a 60-ton, 36-foot high bust of Sylvette—the second major public work by Picasso in the United States and the first of its kind in the western hemisphere.
On a typical floor, there are six apartments, two each of one-, two-, and three-bedroom units, all dominated by a large living room with city views. Flexibility of the basic floor plan accommodates spatial variations, including 4-bedroom apartments on every fifth floor.

Typical plan

Although the towers are slightly varied in their interior layouts and materials, all are identical on the exterior where structure is clearly expressed with architectural concrete that was poured in-place in reusable fiber-glass forms to yield the greatest architectural possibilities within the very low budgets mandated
The resultant grids on the faces of each tower clearly identify the “packages of space” inside; the depth of a standard apartment is roughly defined by the sheer walls’ 22-foot expanse while the individual window units express the width of a standard bedroom.
Project Credits

Structural: Farkas and Barron, New York; Mechanical / Electrical: Farkas and Barron, New York; Images: Cervin Robinson, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, George Cserna, Albie Tabackman