Designing Stern Plaza

In A Sense of Place, Placemaking by Mao6 Comments

The Stern Plaza in front of Tisch Hall, or in its other name Frank Jay Gould Memorial Plaza, is one of the most walked plaza by NYU students, faculty and visiting speakers & alumni. While its plain grey colored plaza echoes the rigorous, mannered nature of business school, I think something could be done to improve it and serve the people who are using it better. These are the areas that could be improved and my ideas for specific material/ furniture that might add more a “sense of place” to it:

  1. Add More (Comfortable) Seatings and New Addition of Dining Areas


The seatings we have currently are those orange, rugged-surfaces next to the stairs. Those seating areas are not comfortable at all and provide limited space for students to relax. As many of you know, there are a lot of food trucks right next to the plaza that provides convenience for students and faculty to grab a quick lunch at school, but there are NO TABLES on the plaza where people can sit and eat. So I think we should add more comfortable seatings and dining areas to the plaza. These are recommended material for seating/ chairs/ tables:


Dark marble instead of orange rugged seating


Public seating in Bryant Park; these chairs tables are movable and feel relaxing

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Public seatings in Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris, France; I prefer the lighter green than the ones in Bryant Park because it adds more lightness and color contrast to Stern’s red and dark colors.

  1. Add a Fountain or Sculpture the Center of Plaza

Most famous ancient Roman plazas have a sculpture or a fountain at the center, to kind of circulate space and allow the flow of movement of people, activities move smoothly. At the center of Stern Plaza now is the round iron attached to the ground that says it’s Frank Jay Gould Memorial Plaza and New York University–but most people never notice that and it does not serve any utilitarian purpose. We might want to add a modern fountain to introduce more movement from the falling water and circulation of space and activities.



  1. More GREEN

Facing the front of Tisch Hall, we notice that there is several blank, white walls next to the glass revolving door. The wall currently has nothing on it and it’s waste of space. We don’t have ANY green at the plaza; so a vertical garden/ grass wall might add more nature and life to the plaza, here are some examples:



(Image: ; Source: )


  1. Mao,

    As a regular in Stern Plaza, or whatever that ugly empty space is called, I totally agree with your ideas set forth. All it would take to make the public space more public and inviting, is a good amount of movable tables and chairs. This idea of control over one’s own seating destiny is very important. I do not know if a fountain in the middle would work simply because there are classrooms below, and that may violate some building code. But a sculpture could easily liven up the entire space, by placing an installation in the open space, foot traffic and tired walkers will gather to gaze and wonder. Great read, well done!


    1. Author

      I agree with you that a fountain in the middle might not be practical and I forgot there were classrooms downstairs when I first thought about it lol. Thank you for your feedback! A sculpture or art installation sounds great. What sculpture or art installation would you put in the center of plaza?

  2. Hi Mao,

    I think this is such a great post! Stern Plaza, in its current form, is totally unusable. I’ve always wondered why its builders chose to make it so barren and stodgy-feeling. Being the only person standing (because there is no seating) in the middle of a vast empty space is just disconcerting; it does not endear you to feel comfortable at all, or want to stay there for a second longer than it takes to cross it to get into class or whatever. I think your suggestions would certainly improve its standing as a place and make it more usable and accessible to students.


  3. Mao,

    I think you have some great ideas about how to improve the design and functionality of Stern Plaza. You clearly have a really good eye for design and aesthetics which I also appreciate! Stern Plaza is a really important space for NYU students. I know I walk through it frequently and at times and tried to find somewhere to sit where I could eat, but have a hard time finding a space. Fortunately, Washington Square Park is close by and is obviously a great place to relax.

  4. – I think it would be great if the university put minimal recourses and got some really decent and easy tables and chairs like the ones in Bryant Park and the ones in France. It wouldn’t cost them a lot and I think would make the atmosphere a lot more collegiate.

  5. Mao,
    As already mentioned above, I fully agree with your plans. I often find myself sitting in Stern Plaza even though it’s so inviting, but it always feels odd and slightly uncomfortable because not many people hang around. But the fact that I still always end up there just makes me think that the plaza has so much potential. Your seating proposals would be so clutch and make such a difference! It’s odd that the inside of the Stern building has been paid particular attention, especially as NYU buildings go.. as a CAS student I often feel like I get the short end of the stick as far as classroom space goes.. but back to the point the inside of Stern is great and the Plaza so pitiful! Instead of a fountain some stepped sort of statue like seating could also be cool, and encourage lounging as well as eating.

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