NYU Architecture - General Project Description and Selection Policy

This project will focus on the decade of the 1960s, a time of one of the most prolific physical expansion eras in the history of New York University. During the 1960s a number of major building projects were proposed and carried out at the Washington Square and University Heights campuses. Prominent buildings constructed during this time include Philip Johnson’s Bobst Library, I.M Pei’s University Towers, the Technology II Building, and Warren Weaver Hall. The majority of this significant architectural history is documented in the papers of University Architect, Joseph Roberto. Though the papers span the years of 1928-1987, this digital history will focus primarily on the 1960s.

This collection of papers along with other related collections at NYU’s University Archives are particularly significant to the university as the space planning that was done in the latter half of the 20th century continues to have an impact on current expansion and long-term plans for NYU today. While the university’s strategic plans for its layout are revealed throughout the Roberto papers, the collection also contains Johnson’s unrealized arcade-style plan for the Washington Square campus. The building initiatives and subsequent decisions made in the early 1960s affected the surrounding neighborhoods, in particular, Greenwich Village.

Beyond immediate 1960s renovations and construction to the Washington Square campus the papers reveal a number of issues concerning zoning, urban renewal, historic preservation and restoration activities that Roberto was involved in while employed by NYU. Outside of immediate NYU buildings the collection highlights the rehabilitation and renovation of the Old Merchant’s House and Washington Square Park. As recent as January 2008 NYU is continuing to propose plans for its next twenty year expansion. An examination of the documents related to the 1960s expansion may prove useful in more recent development policies and historic preservation efforts, a current concern of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

Although Roberto’s papers contain some documents from the 1920s-1950s, this digital project will exclude those related documents and focus on the 1960s building projects. This decision in selection criteria is not only because the Roberto collection's most comprehensive coverage is in the 1960s, but also because of the amount of significant construction during the era. In addition, those papers related to the University Heights campus will be excluded. In the 1970s New York University’s building program stalled due to a financial crisis of the university. For that reason this collection of documents will focus exclusively on the Washington Square campus and the surrounding area. Additionally, personal information concerning Roberto will be excluded. While Roberto was instrumental in the space planning of the campus, his contribution will be revealed through other, more formal planning documents directly related to NYU.

This site will highlight the series in Roberto’s papers of correspondence, progress reports, master planning, space allocation, historic preservation, historical activities, and the building files of the Washington Square campus. Meeting minutes, financial and budget files, and promotional material will be excluded due to restricted access. In addition these materials fall outside of the intended scope of this project.

The Roberto collection will also be supplemented by the Administrative Papers of President James McNaughton Hester, 1962-1975 as well as other photographic materials housed at NYU’s University Archives. Special attention will be paid to blueprints, building proposals from multiple architects, and photos of the completed buildings both individually and in relation to each other. As the project develops certain buildings will also be selected for more careful examination based on their architectural significance, contribution to the campus layout and impact on the surrounding neighborhood. At this time Bobst Library, University Towers, and Warren Weaver Hall have been selected as the main focus for the project.

The ultimate goal and reasoning for the digitization of this collection of documents is to illustrate the building efforts of the 1960s in great detail, document construction projects (including those never ultimately built), and renovations of historic buildings. By highlighting the significance of past NYU campus expansions and concerns with historic buildings, much can be gained pertaining to current NYU building expansion plans and the need to be sensitive to the surrounding historic community.

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