Milstein Hall | OMA


‘milstein hall cornell university’ by OMA in ithaca, new york, USA
all images courtesy cornell / AAP
image © william staffield

‘milstein hall’, the first new building for the cornell university college of architecture, art,
and planning
 (AAP), has celebrated its grand opening in ithaca, new york, USA.
designed by internationally-recognized architecture practice OMA, the 14,000 m2
educational complex spatially connects the originally fragmented area between four existing
buildings with an elevated horizontal plate outfitted with floor-to-ceiling glass.

exterior view during construction
image © william staffield

inserted into the interstitial space between rand, sibley, the foundrys and tjaden hall,
the new facility focuses on the stimulating the interaction of programs while allowing
flexibility over time. the operation and activities of the buildings is made transparent on
the ground level by an angled glass facade which overlooks the sunken in 282-seat auditorium.
manipulations of the floor plate resulted in a hill-like bulge that caters to a number of programs:
the computer labs and meeting areas are housed under the curved form while the seats of
the auditorium follow the natural incline of the structure; a portion of the hill penetrates out
into the exterior, providing a playful communal space complete with pod-like LED stools,
while the peak that punctures the upper plate provides an access point to the rest of the building.

face during installation
image © william staffield

the higher level of the new hall provides an open layout for studios and work space.
wrapped in floor-to-ceiling glazing, the interior benefits from a generous amount of natural
daylight. a grid of skylights on the green roof further facilitates sunlight into the studios.

under the elevated volume
image © william staffield


views of stairwell
images © william staffield

studio level wrapping around existing hall
image © william staffield

floor-to-ceiling window
image © william staffield

studio space
image © william staffield

(left) up to street level
(right) auditorium
images © william staffield


seating
image © william staffield

peak of the bulge from studio level
image © william staffield

lifted up floor plate with a view into the lower level
image © william staffield

staircase in basement
image © william staffield

image © william staffield

exterior bulge
image © william staffield

LED pods during installation
image © william staffield

planting the green roof
image © william staffield

roof lights
image © william staffield


physical model

view from the gorge

level -1

level 0

level +1

roof level

rendered fly-by view

street view


exterior view from street level 

exterior meeting space

view into auditorium

interior view of staircase up to studio level

section

section
project info: 

partners in charge: rem koolhaas, shohei shigematsu
associate in charge: ziad shehab
team: jason long, michael smith, troy schaum, charles bermean,
amparo casani, noah shepherd, alasdair graham, torsten schroeder,
joshua beck, erica goetz, margaret arbanas, matthew seidel,
tsuyoshi nakamoto, ritchie tao, konrad krupinski, kengo skorick,
martin schliefer, marcin ganczarski, tanner merkeley, konstantin august,
klaas kresse, mathieu de paepe, suzanna waldron, daphna glaubert,
beatriz minquez de molina, jesse seegers, james davies, esa rustkeepaa,
daniel gerber, paul georgeadis, julianna gola, betty ng, michael jefferson

collaborators: 
executive architect: KHA architects, LLC
structural engineer: robert silman associates
MEP engineer: plus group consulting engineering
engineering servies: gryphon international
facade design and engineering consultant: front, inc.
acoustical consultant: DHV VB
elevator consultant: persohn/hahn associates
IT/data/security consultant: archi-technology
lighting consultant: tillotson design associates, inc.
audio/visual consultant: acentech
roofing consultant: BPD roof consulting, inc.
sustainability consultant: BVM engineering
models: OMA / model en objekt / made by mistake

http://www.designboom.com/weblog/cat/9/view/16334/oma-milstein-hall-nearing-completion.html

A commission with a troubled history, OMA’s design for Milstein Hall reveals and relishes in the problem of creating architecture about architecture.

Credit: Jason Koski, Cornell University Photography

In the punishing history of higher education in architecture, the first decade of the 21st century may be remembered as something of a respite. This is not thanks to any maturation of a pedagogy in which the necessary routine of critique is all too often abused as an opportunity for ritual bullying.

It’s because drawing got more digital, and digital projectors got more affordable. A student narrating a slide presentation of computational renderings from the back of a cinematically darkened room stands shoulder to shoulder with his or her critics and colleagues, addressing the image of the work in collaboratively parallel gaze. The student’s back is neither figuratively nor literally up against the wall on which the paper (and the student, like a butterfly) is pinned. The darkness and displacement of a projected review eases the spatial positioning and social hierarchy that—in acute combination—have earned such crits, and their associated spaces, such nicknames as the Shooting Gallery, the Execution Chamber, and the Kill Floor.

Today, the new affordability of big, bright, liquid-crystal-display flat screens may be shifting the dynamic back, returning the student to the front of the room and the line of fire. This was the setup I saw during a recent visit to Milstein Hall, a $52 million, 47,000-square-foot addition to Cornell University’s College of Art, Architecture & Planning in Ithaca, N.Y., completed in October by Rem Koolhaas, Shohei Shigematsu, and Ziad Shehab of OMA. The addition incorporates the architecture school’s historic home in the scruffy but sturdily Sullivanesque Rand Hall, confirming the firm’s stated new interest in what Koolhaas, in a recent lecture at Cornell, called, “not-exactly-preservation, [and] in performance more than shape.”

The new addition features some 25,000 square feet of uninterrupted studio space in an airy Miesian box, about 150 feet wide, elevated and cantilevered 48 feet toward an adjacent gorge. This structure is supported largely by steel hybrid truss systems that appear to bulge blobbishly up from the seeming ground plane below, like a stray piece of late Corbusian roofscape. Those flat-screen crits take place in a circular arena directly inside the mound, the outer slopes of which accommodate the steep pitch of a 275-seat auditorium. Complex spatial overlaps, formal excisions, and glassy openings at the intersection of box and blob accommodate a constellation of primary circulation and secondary assembly and display spaces, as well as the many surprising oblique sight lines between them.

A student’s first clients are, conversationally and judgmentally, his or her teachers. And in this sense, to be commissioned to design an architecture school is to be sent back to the Kill Floor. This may explain why Milstein Hall looks a little like a student project with something to prove: a brilliant big idea, its resolutely off-the-shelf parts contrasting with feverishly fussy features. Consider the auditorium’s semi-robotic armchairs.

OMA’s usual jolie laide here becomes a kind of didactic precocity, as with the deep hybrid-Warren-and-Vierendeel trusses whose webs progressively tilt toward the studio box’s periphery to accommodate moment load—as if someone dropped the model on the way to the crit and decided it worked.

This back-to-school dynamic may also explain some of the troubled history of the Cornell project. It began with a 1997 reprimand from the National Architectural Accreditation Board for inadequate facilities, a 1999 gift of $10 million from developer Paul Milstein, and an aborted addition and renovation by Boston firm Schwartz/Silver Architects. There followed a competition to replace Rand Hall.

The contest garnered an icy palisade from Peter Zumthor and a lead zeppelin from Thom Mayne, FAIA, among other entries; Stephen Holl won in April 2001 with a $25 million incised cuboid. A year later, Holl was off the job, releasing a colorful statement that, “Like a brain surgeon operating on his own brain, making architecture for an architecture school is a peculiarly difficult challenge. I’ve been involved in the process of five different architecture schools over the past 13 years and believe it is one of the most difficult architectural commissions.”

There followed an unbuilt and unlovable 2002 design by Barkow Leibinger Architects, a serviceable bar building in the vein of the industrial structures in which the then relatively obscure Berlin firm specialized. Even after the commission of Koolhaas in early 2006, all was not settled. OMA’s initial scheme underwhelmed both avant- and derrière-gardes, and its fate became embroiled in local and academic politics, with the usual questions of context and taste compounded by the effect on endowed institutions of the ongoing financial crisis. Only a further NAAB caution in 2008 and a dramatic university vote in early 2009 ultimately tipped the scales.

Cornell’s saga was perhaps unusually public, but not unusual: architecture-school buildings are legendarily tricky, suffering either from excessive effort, or recessive deference, by designers and clients. Where they succeed, it’s through monomaniacal zeal, as at Paul Rudolph’s Art+Architecture Building at Yale University, or serendipitous adaptive reuse of existing structures, as at London’s Architectural Association. Or at Cornell, strangely, through a touch of both.

In architecture, profession and academy are mutually complicit through the intricate politics of both as well as through the Beaux-Arts ideal of the atelier: architects of substance are generally expected to teach, and employees are, under internship and registration rubrics, expected to go on learning. And the schools are where, in Holl’s acute metaphor, architecture goes to perform brain surgery on itself.

Cornell occupies a notable position in the history of that surgery. It’s the home of the lively Cornell Journal of Architecture, recently revived; it’s the alma mater of Peter Eisenman, AIA, a prominent practitioner who is largely responsible for the consensus that architects, whatever else they’re guilty of, should think. (Or at least read.) Koolhaas himself, another noted architect-as-public-intellectual, famously studied there for a few semesters in 1972 and 1973, at the hands of Oswald Mathias Ungers, then department chair, and the canonical theorist Colin Rowe—whose own interests in urbanity and transparency became those of a generation of designers and critics.

During a recent walk around the new building, I asked Koolhaas what he learned as a student at Cornell. “I learned listening,” he said. He was referring to the philosopher Michel Foucault, who was visiting Cornell at the time when Koolhaas studied, at work on what would become his most directly architectural project, 1975’s Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, a study of the spatial structures of power (and vice versa), that featured the Panopticon prison of Jeremy Bentham.

Asked later what Cornell’s current students might have learned during his return, Koolhaas speculated that they may have been reminded that “they’re on ground where warfare has been played out.” He was referring not to the usual skirmishes of construction management, but to Cornell’s own past, during his student semesters, as a cauldron of architectural discourse and discord—largely between Ungers’s maddening method and Rowe’s methodical madness.

At its rare best, the violence at any architecture school reflects these moments of theoretical urgency and anxiety in the field. The intimacy and immediacy of design teaching enlists students, in a glorious absence of condescension, into the essential battles of their day. At its very worst, this violence turns a school into a prison worthy of Foucault: an isolated and self-regarding enclosure that enforces habitual hierarchy and ritual conformity; that reinforces the great embarrassments of a profession whose offices are known for their screamers and chest-beaters. In this sense, Koolhaas may have given Cornell a building to live up to—as the subversive subtleties of its section continually offer its students a means of spectacular or speculative escape and escapade, a means for bearing witness and listening in, a means for experiencing adjacent events and outside worlds.

It’s a built form of accountability: that central circular crit space, lined by LCD-screens and students, could easily have become a prison yard like that of the Arnhem Koepel Panopticon prison in the Netherlands speculatively renovated by OMA in 1980. But to lean your back against its wall is to liberatingly occupy sight lines to simultaneous spaces and events, from the familiar luminous ceiling of the studio glimpsed through a stairwell, to the nearby skateboarder enjoying the slope outside. It is to experience something of a heteropticon or peripateticon, in which moving eyes and feet on nearby bridge and stair and elevator all offer felicitous encounter and interrupting incident.

Milstein Hall invites the notion that architecture is, in our current political language, more occupation than discipline. The building enables, perhaps demands, a transparency of action and an urbanity of event that would gratify both Foucault and Rowe. As both would attest, the names that we give places matter. It’s encouraging that during their first fall there, students have dubbed a favorite pin-up spot, perched at the far edge of a cantilever under the moody Ithaca sky, not a familiar architecture-school nickname borrowed from the language of incarceration, but something altogether lovelier: the Dance Floor.

The extension of the Cornell College of Architecture, Art and Planning in Ithaca, where Rem Koolhaas studied architecture in a time of ferment
This article was originally published in Domus 952, November 2011It is a seminal year for architecture in America. Minoru Yamasaki completes the Twin Towers, the tallest buildings in the world. Louis Kahn delivers a canonical pair as well—the Phillips Exeter Academy Library and the Kimbell Art Museum. Yale gets its independent Architecture School, located in a bush-hammered concrete castle-like mammoth of a building by Paul Rudolph, and the Harvard Graduate School of Design inaugurates its robust Gund Hall by John Andrews. Back in New York, One Penn Plaza opens, a textbook example of “Manhattanism” designed by Kahn & Jacobs, the associate firm on Mies’s Seagram Building—and the firm where author Ayn Rand witnesses firsthand architectural hubris while inventing Howard Roark, the protagonist in her novel The Fountainhead.1972 is also “the year Modern architecture died”. Charles Jencks’s statement in reference to the demolition of Pruitt-Igoe, another Yamasaki-designed modernist housing project in St. Louis, announces the end of the JFK/Johnson era of reconstructing civil society, which produced a wave of bold, new-brutalist public and academic buildings throughout the US. Nixon’s contrary urban policies put an end to such construction and spur a second wave of suburbanisation amplified by Vietnam veterans returning home. Learning from Las Vegas is published; things get messy; Post-Modernism is born.It is this year that Rem Koolhaas relocates to Ithaca, New York, to study at Cornell University. The College of Architecture, Art and Planning—which counts among its graduates Peter Eisenman and his cousin Richard Meier—is led at that time by Oswald Mathias Ungers, OMU to friends. The school is situated in the 19th-century Sibley Hall at the Arts Quad on campus. Next door, I.M. Pei’s iconic Johnson Museum of Art, a concrete building with massive rectangular forms and cantilevered spaces, is nearing completion. With its ingenious stacked programme, Pei realises one of the last forward-looking buildings on East Coast campuses for years.

Ungers’s tenure at Cornell (1969–1975) not only serves as a catalyst for his career but also solidifies the department’s international reputation as a centre of architectural thought, particularly Rationalism and Post-Modernism. His themes of transformation, interpretation, typology and metamorphosis affect the young Koolhaas. The early work by OMA—founded in 1975—is unmistakably influenced by the post-modern discourse of the time. Different from its contemporaries, however, OMA develops its specific breed of Post-Modernism, employing modern rather than classical signs and symbols, as illustrated by their contribution to Paolo Portoghesi’s 1980 Venice Biennale titled The Presence of the Past.

Top: West facade of Milstein Hall,<br /><br />
the new wing of the College<br /><br />
of Architecture, Art and<br /><br />
Planning at Cornell University.<br /><br />
The pavilion is grafted<br /><br />
between Sibley Hall and<br /><br />
Rand Hall. Above:<br /><br />
the overhang structure<br /><br />
of the design workshops,<br /><br />
clad in striated marble.
Testo alternativo ImmagineTop: West facade of Milstein Hall, the new wing of the College of Architecture, Art and Planning at Cornell University. The pavilion is grafted between Sibley Hall and Rand Hall. Above: the overhang structure of the design workshops, clad in striated marble.
After public repulsion to the late-modern building boom in the United States, university architecture wholeheartedly embraces the supposedly humanist, historical post-modern style. Robert Venturi, Michael Graves and Charles Moore leave their marks on campuses throughout the country. Over time, Post-Modernism loses its novelty and initial critical edge. It transforms into neoclassicism, which, with a few notable exceptions, becomes the default style for any university project—a safe bet to secure donors. Milstein Hall, oma’s recently completed addition to the Cornell College of Architecture, Art and Planning, should be considered in this context.
View of the overhang structure.
View of the overhang structure.
Having learned from setbacks on other US work, such as the cancellation of projects for the Whitney Museum and LACMA, and thrown into a muddled process involving antagonistic preservationists and campus purists, OMA’s solution is sly and subtle. “It’s definitely an exercise in modest, discreet intervention,” Koolhaas has said. The building is basically a steel box with studio space sitting on top of a concrete mound containing assembly areas. This simple composition is remarkably well placed, barely visible from the Arts Quad, on what used to be a back parking lot. Tightly clad in white and grey striated marble, it is a wolf in a sheep’s hide. From the exterior it is an unimposing building—the cantilever was introduced later in the design to appease concerns about the structure’s proximity to the historic Foundry Building—but once inside new linkages and an intricate section unleash an array of dynamic flows and usages. It connects the previously separated Sibley and Rand halls and has instigated a reprogramming of those existing buildings. Its intelligent siting combined with a rich circulatory system produces a series of overlaps, slips, cracks and vistas. It reorients the entire college and creates a relational and programmatic complexity that is one of OMA’s hallmarks.
The moulded metal ceiling<br /><br />
panels are a reference to the<br /><br />
vernacular buildings of New<br /><br />
York. Below the overhang,<br /><br />
the floor slab of the cupola is<br /><br />
dotted with rubber seating.
Testo alternativo ImmagineThe moulded metal ceiling panels are a reference to the vernacular buildings of New York. Below the overhang, the floor slab of the cupola is dotted with rubber seating.
The steel box offers large raw studio spaces filled with daylight. In a didactic nod, all systems and structures are left exposed. A series of informal gathering and presentation spaces enrich the neutrality of the box. It rests coolly on a grid of blackpainted steel columns, while the ground below is inflated to form a defaced concrete dome—punctured, ripped and cut. This spherical rupture in the campus tissue, with its integrated lighting and sprinkler systems, is a gutsy feat in a country where the shift from new Brutalism to Post-Modernism eradicated concrete craft. The heroics are in the basement. A beefy column crutch casually supports the corner of the dome that carries the auditorium seating above. An extraordinary cast-in-place concrete bridge spans across the dome space column-free to connect entrance to auditorium and forms a viewing balcony into the critique space below. Acoustical concerns in this exposed space are muted through felt lining and the bush hammering of the peripheral wall—or is this a subtle reference to Rudolph’s Art and Architecture Building?
The main staircase to the<br /><br />
design studios.
Testo alternativo ImmagineThe main staircase to the design studios.
The lessons of Ungers and the dawn of post-modernity resound throughout the building. It is an arrangement of autonomous, basic geometries. Through its positioning, the modern box typology transforms to a non-sentimental tissue insert. For the scheme’s materialisation and detailing oma offers a concoction of references. But rather than signifying early modernism they appear to denote the office’s previous work itself. IIT is present through the contained modern box—the dirty Mies; the large elevator fitted with a chair and a lamp create a roomlike condition that recalls Maison à Bordeaux; an assembly of structural systems and components remind us of the Kunsthal; the use of the slope of the auditorium to create spaces below points to the Educatorium; the combination of “elite” and popular materials; the pressed white aluminium ceiling; the transforming lecture hall floor. All seem to bring back OMA’s early work—the pre-enigmatic era. Only the token Petra Blaisse-designed curtains carry references to classic architecture.
On the first floor, a mirror-surfaced<br /><br />
closet separates<br /><br />
the tiered auditorium from<br /><br />
the student areas.
Testo alternativo ImmagineOn the first floor, a mirror-surfaced closet separates the tiered auditorium from the student areas.
Just before he passed away, OMU mentioned to Koolhaas in an interview published in log: “There is a great misunderstanding among architects. They think they are inventors and always need to be avant-garde. But you cannot permanently exist as an avant-garde. That is impossible. Architecture can be carried forward in a dialectical process, meaning a confrontation with the existing or with that which one wants to provoke at a certain moment. From a morphological point of view—which is not exclusive but inclusive, and not contrary but complementary—you can assess that certain elements are missing that could be added.”
The dome space is crossed by a grid-structured concrete bridge, with a free span of more than 20 metres.
Testo alternativo ImmagineThe dome space is crossed by a grid-structured concrete bridge, with a free span of more than 20 metres.
Milstein Hall does exactly that. At the end of two decades of iconicity it revokes the early debates around Post-Modernism. It reintroduces a forward-looking, intelligent architecture into anaesthetised campus design. It adds new layers of complexity to a discourse that has gone silent. Koolhaas’s act appears remarkably timely. This fall, the V&A in London is hosting a comprehensive retrospective titled Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970–1990, Jencks has just published The Story of Post-Modernism, and Terence Riley, this year’s curator of the Shenzhen–Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale, is doing a rerun of Portoghesi’s Street, albeit with new names. Seemingly tame, Milstein Hall could be Pandora’s box. Its agenda is so ambitious that to be realised it could never be openly stated. Is it a prelude or a coda?
Florian Idenburg
The<br /><br />
auditorium in the basement<br /><br />
level. The curtains, designed<br /><br />
by Petra Blaisse, pay homage<br /><br />
to classical architecture.
Testo alternativo ImmagineThe auditorium in the basement level. The curtains, designed by Petra Blaisse, pay homage to classical architecture.
Design Architects: OMA
Partners-in-Charge: Rem Koolhaas, Shohei Shigematsu
Associate-in-charge: Ziad Shehab
Design Team: Jason Long, Michael Smith, Troy Schaum, Charles Berman, Amparo Casani, Noah Shepherd
Architect of Record: KHA Architects
Team: Laurence Burns, Jim Bash, Brandon Beal, Michael Ta, Stephen Heptig, Sharon Giles
Structural Engineering: Robert Silman Associates
MEP/FP: Plus Group Consulting Engineers
Civil Engineering, Site Utilities: GIE Niagara Engineering Inc.
Civil Engineering, Site and Grading: T.G. Miller
Acoustical Consultant: DHV V.B.
Facade Design and Engineering Consultant: Front
Lighting Consultant: Tillotson Design Associates
Landscape Architect: Scape Landscape Architecture
Curtain Design: Inside Outside, Petra Blaisse
Graphic Design: 2×4
Audio/Visual Consultant: Acentech
Roofing Consultant: BPD Roof Consulting
Elevator Consultant: Persohn/Hahn Associates
IT/Data/Security Consultant: Archi-Technology
Sustainability Consultant: BVM Engineering
Client: Cornell University, College of Architecture, Art and Planning (AAP)
Testo alternativo Immagine
Testo alternativo Immagine
Testo alternativo Immagine
Testo alternativo Immagine

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: