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September 27, 2022 3 min read

Illustration credit: Kieran Timberlake and Brooklyn Digital Foundry

The Project: 

This summer we had the pleasure of completing a special commercial project for New York University. In 2019,  Spacesmith LP approached us about the idea of a new Commons forNew York University’s expansion at 181 Mercer St., located in Greenwich Village among the rest of their sprawling campus. Our involvement with this project was centered around creating custom “Power Roller” editions of our original Rollerboys for the students who will be frequenting the new Commons. 


 Illustration credit: Kieran Timberlake and Brooklyn Digital Foundry

The lead architect on the project was familiar with our ‘Rollerboy’ product line, and was interested in having a few hundred of them made for the space. She came to us with the idea of adapting our ‘Rollerboy’ design based on her project's specific needs. They were looking to have us build something that would be indestructible, mobile, and impossible for students to “borrow” (students have a habit of “borrowing” furniture for their dorm rooms). Luckily these rollers were concrete and “unborrowable” for the most part.


Production prep at our Greenpoint, Brooklyn Studio. 

We added outlets for students working on the go so they could charge their devices, and rendered them in our “Crete” finish; a beautiful solid color, polished finish. Knowing the nature of a school environment, we predicted these would undergo a lot of heavy use, so we added a finish that would withstand years of use. 


 Power outlet flap, open vs. closed. 

The architect had initially asked us to match NYU’s iconic purple, which we managed to perfectly match, but eventually decided against it. In the end, the prospect of 200 purple rollers ultimately seemed too oversaturated. Instead, we opted for a minimal solid gray that acts as a neutral and pairs nicely with the rest of the accents within the space.


 Initially-proposed "NYU Purple" colorway for the Rollerboys that was scrapped.

The Challenges:

Incorporating powered elements into a project was something we had never done before, and these rollers required power installation because of the outlets we wanted to include. In order to incorporate the power into the pieces, we had to redesign the entire Rollerboy from the ground up. While our Rollerboys are not solid concrete, the original design did not accommodate for anything to be put inside, so we were forced to go back to the drawing board to reconfigure them to find space.


 Underside of the "Power-Roller", complete with power source.

We landed on retractable power cords concealed underneath as the most efficient design choice, and had to find a special supplier overseas to custom make these retractable cord reels. 


 Initial diagram and internal re-design of Rollerboy to accommodate power source.


The retractable cord allows users to move the rollerboys and have them hooked up to a power source that would remain concealed, allowing for a sleek, minimal look, steering clear of any corded messes. We also decided that some would be fixed and some would be movable, as we wanted to create a dynamic, re-configurable learning space. Lastly, we added a pop-top double outlet with a metal exterior flap that allows people to charge their devices.


Initial outdoor review meeting opon delivery of Rollerboys with Spacesmith LLC team. (Because of Covid-related restrictions, we were forced to meet outside on the sidewalk! No biggie though!)


The Results: 

The new Commons will span two floors with a cafe, large seating areas, and close access to the theater, which comes complete with balcony and mezzanine seating designed to accommodate up to 350 people. While our portion of the project is already completed, 181 Mercer Street is reported to be ready for occupancy by November 2022, but will formally open in Spring 2023.


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