“We designed a building for John Jay College that essentially accommodates the needs of an entire campus within a single building,” explains Mustafa K. Abadan, design partner at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM). Inaugurated in November, the new John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York (the Institute for Criminology at City University of New York) is a response to the new needs of an institution that, after gradual growth over the years, recorded such a huge increase in student numbers after the attacks on the twin towers in 2001 that the existing facilities became inadequate. The new building accommodates both academic and social functions: “With our social cascade and rooftop terrace, the students will now have more opportunities for the interaction and chance encounters that are so essential to education,” continues Abadan.
The building consists of two volumes: a four-storey rectangular block with a 65 thousand square foot (6,000 sq.m.) terrace, crossed lengthways by stairs, and a 14-storey tower, which houses the faculty offices, a conference centre and instructional workshops. The long stairs provide access to other educational and social functions, which are laid out along the horizontal and vertical. Beginning at the fifth level of the tower near the cafeteria, the stairs descend to the main student entrance on 59th Street and connect to Haaren Hall, the early twentieth century building that originally housed the college.
The new and existing buildings are similar in size, and, as a whole, the complex has a significant presence in the urban landscape, creating a strong visual impact from West Side Highway.
The new building is clad with aluminium panels and low-emissivity glass units. A staggered pattern is produced on the facades by alternating fritted and transparent glass panels. Vertical aluminium fins are then arranged in horizontal bands around all four sides. On one side these fins are finished with a silver-speckled mica-flake paint, while the other is silk-screened with a red dot design. These two finishes create a dynamic visual effect, which changes according to the position of the viewer. Approaching the building from the east, in a counter clockwise direction, the exterior looks red and blends in with the brick facades of Haaren Hall. From the opposite direction, the transparency and reflections of the glass and aluminium are reminiscent of the towers on 11th Avenue.