How NYU redesigned its library to prevent student suicides


This week, an incoming freshman at Columbia University leaped to her death from the 14th floor of a dorm building. Sadly, college student suicides aren’t an abnormal thing in New York City. In 2003, more than three suicides have been reported from New York University alone, many of which occurred in the Elmer Holmes Bobst Library where students should have theoretically been at peace, studying, or socializing. Finally, the college is making physical changes to its campus to prevent students from jumping off university grounds, providing safety and an interesting architecture to boot.

how nyu redesigned its library to prevent student suicides bobst screen joel sanders architectsWith the help of design firm Joel Sanders Architects, Bobst Library is reimagined with pixel-inspired screens outfitted to the opening where the stairs faced the main atrium. These 20-foot-tall aluminum sheets leave room for light to come through the staircase, and do not obstruct the views from the other side. In case of fire, the golden panels also allow for air to be comfortably ventilated.

With the modern design, N.Y.U. hopes the screens are not only beautiful to enjoy, but can be helpful with suicide prevention without looking obvious as a death barrier. This way, students can feel at ease with the renovation and not be reminded of the grisly past the library had experienced.

“The whole idea was to come up with something sympathetic to the [original building’s] design while being in and of today,” Andrew T. Repoli, a director of construction management at N.Y.U. told the New York Times. “We didn’t want something that would have been hip 40 years ago.”

The digitally-inspired panels resemble computer pixels, something most college students would be familiar with in this tech-infused age. Between every few inches, gold square and rectangles fill up the space adding a glistening shine when you view the panels in a distance. While the scattered shapes seem to appear at random, there are actually just 39 patterns along the total of 286 screens. According to N.Y.U., the seven-month renovations are still ongoing, and is expected to be completed by Labor Day. Obviously, installing panels in just one building of its campus is no foolproof way to prevent student suicides, but it’s a continued effort on the university’s part to turn something tragic into a beautiful beginning.

Image Credit: New York University/Inhabitat