Growing in Place: Creating Vertical Density within a Historical Urban Campus

Session: Track G: Vertical Sustainability: Design and Engineering for the Environment

Sargent GardinerProject image

Sargent Gardiner
Partner, Robert A.M. Stern Architects
New York City

In 2020, Union Theological Seminary in New York City partnered with Lendlease to develop a transformative 354,000-square-foot (32,888 square meter) residential and academic tower for its historic campus—a project that also addresses the need for better social and economic benefits within this dense urban neighborhood. This 40-story Gothic Revival high-rise is carefully woven into the seminary’s campus quadrangle, but also responds to the surrounding context of prewar mid-rise apartment buildings.

Most of the existing campus was built in the early 1900s and designed as a predominantly 8-story perimeter block building with a very strong Gothic Revival vocabulary. Located within the historic Morningside Heights neighborhood, the seminary has struggled to expand, modernize its classrooms, and provide sufficient housing for faculty—prompting its board to consider numerous plans, such as new development, moving to an alternate location, or even closing its doors all together. Ultimately, the development of 100 Claremont allows the seminary to stay in its present location and provides much-needed space to grow and, at the same time, ensures contextual continuity between the existing fabric, nearby landmarks, and the institution.

In addition to the physical transformation, the redevelopment includes a USD$5-million investment to also ensure measurable and achievable benefits to the surrounding neighborhood. Funding will support legal work and community engagement, build partnerships with service and advocacy organizations to help homeless people, and promote social justice. This programming assists the next generation of community activists and leaders end the inequality and marginalization that continues to be pervasive in Morningside Heights.