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The Landmarked New School Auditorium — Home of Village Preservation’s 2019 Annual Meeting and Village Awards

The Village Awards recognize the people, places, and organizations which make a significant contribution to the quality of life in Greenwich Village, the East Village, and NoHo. The 2019 Awards and Annual Meeting will be held at The New School Auditorium at 66 West 12th Street. The striking 500-seat auditorium,  designed in 1931, was designated an interior New York City landmark on June 3, 1997 — one of the very few in New York City, and one of the only ones in Greenwich Village. Click here to read about the 2019 awardees and here toRSVP to the awards ceremony.

The New School for Social Research was founded in 1919 by a group of college professors and intellectuals including historians, philosophers, and economists. Several had resigned from Columbia University in protest when it (like many other colleges), banned anti-war demonstrations on the eve of World War I. These founders sought to develop an institution of advanced adult learning
based on their own liberal principles.

For its first ten years, the New School operated out of several converted townhouses on West 23rd Street. When these buildings were slated for demolition to make way for the London
Terrace Apartments in 1928, the school had to find new quarters. Supporter and benefactor Daniel Crawford Smith donated three houses on West 12th Street under the condition that
the new building would include a penthouse apartment for himself and his wife. The school purchased one additional adjoining lot.

The New School for Social Research Auditorium. Image via LPC designation report, Carl Forster

The New School desired a building whose architecture would reflect the institution’s progressive philosophies. University president Alvin Johnson considered two prominent architects for the job. Frank Lloyd Wright and Joseph Urban. While Johnson considered Wright to be America’s greatest architect, he believed Urban would do a better job reflecting the ideas he wanted to express in the building. Urban was a well-known architect and theater designer who an early follower of the Vienna Secessionist Movement.  The building at 66 West 12th Street was the first building constructed by the New School and the first appearance of the International Style in New York.

The New School for Social Research Auditorium. Image via LPC designation report, Carl Forster

Much of the first floor of The New School for Social Research was designated a landmark including the auditorium lobby, the stairway on the east side end of the lobby leading to the second floor, as far as the landing; the auditorium, including the sloping floor, the auditorium balconies, the upper portion of the auditorium at the balcony level, the proscenium arch, the stage/platform, and the side stage extensions; and the fixtures and components of these spaces, including, but not limited to, wall and ceiling surfaces including the ceiling rings (in the auditorium) and ceiling cove (in the lobby), floor surfaces in the lobby, auditorium seats, doors, lighting (not including the stage lighting or other production-related fixtures), railings, and metal wall grilles in the lobby. Urban overcame the acoustical challenges of a rounded ceiling by hanging perforated plaster rings from a concealed truss system. This technique served as a precedent for Radio City Music Hall, which opened in December, 1932.

The New School for Social Research Auditorium Lobby. Image via LPC designation report, Carl Forster

Read additional history and see more picture of the space here, and click here toRSVP to attend the awards ceremony which will take place in the New School’s landmarked auditorium.

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