- Edmund Wilson on Joseph Urban's 1930 New School of Social Research
New School for Social Research. 1930, NYC, Joseph Urban
The interior of the New School for Social Research's new home on West 12th Street in New York City which opened in 1930, provided a particular challenge – a large number of rooms and auditoriums in a relatively small space with each room having a specific function.
Joseph Urban used large masses of bright color on plaster surfaces to establish relationships among the spaces while distinguishing them as necessary. "The color is in fact the form, the volume," observed the architect Otto Teegen. "One does not feel that certain architectural surfaces have been painted, but that these architectural planes and volumes are actually color planes and color volumes which have been composed to make a room or a library, as the case may be."
According to Urban, warm colors were located 30 where they receive the most light, cold where there is most shadow, a change of plane is generally emphasized by a change of color, thus the walls have one set of colors, the ceiling another. By thus modeling the wall surfaces of a room the boxlike property of four walls is given an expression of contrasting filled spaces and void space; the monotony of the enclosing areas is transformed to an imaginative statement of the space enclosed and given a character by the emotional statement of color.
It was the critic Edmund Wilson who this time criticized the building for its theatricality. "When he tries to produce a functional lecture building," complained Wilson, "he merely turns out a set of fancy Ziegfeld settings which charmingly mimic offices and factories where we keep expecting to see pretty girls in blue, yellow and cinnamon dresses to match the gaiety of the ceilings and walls."
all text and images taken from here...