Columbia University School of Social Work

Columbia University School of Social Work


With façades on two major public streets, the school also illustrates “good urban design to create activity streetside.”

Learning by Design Judge

Dating back to 1898, the Columbia University School of Social Work is the oldest, most renowned school of social work in the United States. The new 148,500-square-foot building allows the school to consolidate its work into a single facility for the first time since the 1940s in a structure that is part of—not apart from—the surrounding city. The building has two public façades, each with eleven-story, curtain wall ‘slots’ from the roof to the street, reminiscent of buildings in the neighborhood with recessed courtyards for natural light. Large windows welcome the community while generously illuminating the interiors. A series of interconnected rooms allows for views through the building to the Harlem neighborhood outside.

At the prospect of having a new physical environment in which to teach, the school rethought how, when, and where it could most effectively train its students so that the new building might thoroughly support its work. This reexamination affected everything from program square footage to classroom plans. The new building provides ample classrooms, social, and research spaces that support the creative methodology of teaching social work practice. The school’s redesigned program diminished the number of necessary classrooms and freed up space to more thoroughly support student and faculty interactions with formal and informal spaces, and flexibly furnished rooms.



Columbia University

New York, New York
Site Area
0.35 acres
Completion Date
Construction Cost
$56 million
  • 2007 Learning by Design - Honorable Mention
  • Severud Associates Structural Engineers

  • Altieri Sebor Wieber, LLC Mechanical Engineers

  • JAM Building Dept. Expediting & Code Compliance

  • Shen Milsom & Wilke, Inc Acoustics, AV, Telecommunication

  • The Mintz Lighting Group, Inc Lighting Consultant

  • Van Deusen & Associates Elevator Consultant

  • Scott Blackwell Page Architect Programming

  • Langan Engineering & Environmental Services, PC Geotechnical / Environmental Engineering / Survey

  • Wolf and Company Cost Estimating

  • Bovis Lend Lease LMB, Inc Construction Manager

  • Construction Specifications, Inc. Specifications

  • Ducibella Venter & Santore Security Consultant

  • Poulin + Morris Graphics

  • Philip Habib & Associates Builders Pavement