Taking a look inside Newhouse 2's new digital innovation space

A new face for innovation, Newhouse 2 gets a much needed facelift and opens up possibilities for students.

Newhouse 2 – the bunker-like building between I.M. Pei’s iconic Newhouse 1 and the sweeping glass structure of Newhouse 3 designed by Polshek Partnership Architects – has stood as a concrete-clad box since 1974, unwelcoming to the public and confusing students with its dark interior layout.

Today, the school unveiled the new face of Newhouse 2: a bright, double-tier, glass curtain wall that extends from the front of the building on Waverly Avenue.

Photo: Katy Beals

Global design firm Gensler created the new space alongside Syracuse-based J D Taylor Construction Corporation. Encouraged by Newhouse administration and faculty to bring the school’s activity to a forefront, Gensler focused the design on architectural changes that support new technology and drive student production.

Before Gensler was brought on board, the project was slated to be a technology upgrade only. National TeleConsultants, the brains behind the studio-tech renovation, suggested Gensler rehab the architecture for a full-frontal makeover of the 40-year-old building.

Andrew Kirch, one of the project architects and a 2002 Syracuse alum, said his team conducted a three-month study with Newhouse administration and faculty to assess the school’s needs and goals for the future. The result: a new presence at campus edge.

“It was really a collaborative process trying to understand all the drivers for the school, how the space should work in the future and how the modes of production are changing for the school," Kirch said.

Kirch and his colleagues from Gensler’s Boston office said the hardest part of retrofitting the space was dealing with the limitations of the existing Newhouse 2. By opening up the second-floor found space and installing glass windows, they sought to physically brighten the school and give students access to the outside world.

“We felt the building kind of turned its back on the main campus entry,” Kirch said. “One of the main things we talked about with the school very early on was giving them a front door, a presence to the larger university and to the public.”

The studio space, named after 1951 alumnus Dick Clark, is a high-definition production facility that engages students with broadcast and film in a real-world way. The complex is shared with the new Alan Gerry Center for Media Innovation, which gives students hands-on experience in a working newsroom.

Students now have access to state-of-the-art control rooms, high-definition and 3D cameras and a full soundstage suitable for in-house recording. All equipment was connected by systems integration company, The Systems Group.

Susan Nash, Newhouse director of administration, oversaw development of this two-year project and worked with the partnering companies to bring the design to life. She said faculty originally wanted the design to mimic the feel of The Today Show, but this plan is more fitting for the school.

“The new design has had a startling effect on the way that building feels,” she said. “When we built Newhouse 3, Newhouse 2 felt like the forgotten stepchild. Now, it doesn’t even seem like the same building.”

Nash said the new consolidated space will foster collaboration and a better workflow for students.

“The physical and architectural changes to the building will really bring a much more student-focused atmosphere as far as the schedule and management of the space,” she said. “It won’t just serve the broadcast and film students, but create ways for the advertising students to work on video campaigns, the public relations department to provide media training, the magazine, newspaper and online journalism program to shoot clips for tablet design and more.”

The space interacts with both floors of Newhouse 2, giving students access to the studios directly from food.com or the two Waverly entrances.

The first floor showcases the new Cage, which manages Newhouse camera equipment for rental, and several classrooms, control rooms and large production studios. A staircase from the atrium extends to a mezzanine where students can set up and study. The second floor also houses flex studio rooms for mixed use and the headquarters of CitrusTV.

Ken Fisher, Gensler’s principal architect, said his favorite part of the design was peeling away the building’s corner to open up the lobby, where the two-story ribbon windows bring in natural light and which circulates students through all parts of the school.

“This was essentially an isolated project,” he said. “But it actually brings all aspects of the school together using digital media.”

Kirch said the new facade’s architectural enhancements give the Newhouse complex a new face for innovation.

“Dealing with the existing building was kind of wild,” he said. “But the new design gives Newhouse that missing piece of the puzzle.”

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