Thursday, May 3, 2007

News: With IDEO, You Design

A proposed floor plan for the first floor of 65 Fifth Av. Provided by

By Cait McGinn

Come Spring, 2008, you can kiss the old New School goodbye, when ground is expected to break on an estimated 400 million dollar project to create a new “signature” building for the university. Part of the “new” New School project is a plan to demolish the Graduate Faculty building at 65 5th Avenue, and rebuild a structure, that according to a working document on the University website entitled “What is 'new' at The New School?,” will be a “pedagogical innovation that will not only speed the transformation of The New School, but also be a model for higher education in a globalizing world.” (For more on this topic, see editorial on page 2.)

Assisting the University in achieving this academic utopia is IDEO, an innovative design team based out of Stanford, California. IDEO researchers have been interviewing, shadowing and even videotaping students in the Lang courtyard for the past few weeks in an attempt to create a “human-centered design” based on student experience and concerns, according to Gitte Jonsdatter, an IDEO researcher.

“We spend time with students, faculty, administration, and visitors who use the space to gather stories about what is working well and what’s not so great,” said Jonsdatter. “As a design team, we gather all these stories together and look for themes or recurring issues that are the most important, and try to come up with solutions to those problems.”

Another way the design team is engaging students is through a blog. Some blog topics include “Secret Places,” where students go to get away from it all, as well as “Favorite places to study.” Incidentally, many responses listed the GF as their preferred place to hit the books.

New School student and IDEO blogger Aaron Jaffe voiced apprehension about the University’s decision to demolish and rebuild.

“It is not altogether clear to me why this procedure is necessary,” Jaffe said. “The building meets all the New School needs and it intuitively seems more cost effective to buy or rent other space nearby in the city than to destroy and rebuild what is already a critical functioning element of The New School.”

However, Jaffe, a graduate student at The New School for Social Research, did applaud the University’s decision to involve IDEO in the process.

“To explore student usages of space at the current building, the IDEO approach is a welcome change of pace,” he said.

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