The Cornell Master Plan: Part 2 of 5

24 07 2008

So, picking up where I left, part 1 was meant to only cover the arts quad and provide an introduction. In part two, we’ll reach a little deeper into the details of the plan.

The next section focuses on the Ho Plaza area. The primary components of the plan for this area include the reconstruction of Gannett and Day Hall and the demolition of the Cornell Store. I’m going to say that because I’m an employee of the store, there’s a certain sense of attachment one develops after a couple years, so I wasn’t very pleased to see this. Also, Olin Hall and Willard Straight are set to gain additions. The massive new development to replace Hollister and Carpenter Halls will be discussed later.

Here’s a surprise; all the proposals on this page are currently in development already, with the exception of the Straight addition and Day Hall’s demolition. There’s the law school additions, which first appear on page 21; the courtyard-plan makes me raise an eyebrow, because you never know what Cornell is exactly planning. The Law School has seen major construction in four decades (Myron Taylor, 1930s, Anabel Taylor, 1950s, Hughes Hall, 1960s, and the Foster addition to Myron Taylor, 1980s). They have remained relatively cohesive in appearance and massing, and I would hope that any further plans keep it that way.

Then there’s Gannett. Gannett was built in 1958 with an addition in 1979 that sticks out like some cancerous growth from the main building (off topic a little, but when designing new buildings, I hope Cornell never hires Frank Gehry. Look at what he did at MIT as a warning[1]). The discussion for the replacement structure suggests it work with the neighboring intersection to engage activity, which seems to me like it would probably have a plaza in front of it. The replacement structure would be 4-5 floors.

The addition to Olin isn’t a surprise, and will probably blend in with the structure as the east addition did in 1987. I’m not up in arms over that one. I admit that I’m none too cheery about the store’s demolition, but that’s because the main reason seems to be sight-lines. What the hell, demolishing a 53,000 sq. ft facility because it obstructs views. The store was built in 1968-69, and was originally supposed to be 10 feet deeper, but they didn’t expect to hit shallow bedrock. So they compromised. I’ve talked about this with customers, and the concern seems to be where else can they put the store where it is still easily accessible. Moving it out east won’t work unless there’s a lot more out there by that time. But, at work they’re already talking of looking at locations to move to within the next couple years; Collegetown is coming up a lot.

The Day Hall proposing is laughable. Curving the base to match with Wee Stinky Glen is probably not going to be as harmonious as suggested. The idea of student activity at the base of Day sounds nice, but I doubt Day Hall’s staff will appreciate it. Day Hall is administrative, so trying to mix the functions of the student union with the administration in one footprint is not going to go over well. My thought anyway.

Precinct 3 is the Engineering Quad and Hoy Field, referred to in the plan as the “Hoy Quad”. Compared to the previous two precincts, the changes here are numerous. Hollister, Carpenter, and part of Thurston are gone (so is Ward Center, but I’ve met engineers who didn’t even know that was there). A massive building replaced the former two, and the latter is incorporated as part of a new set of building, a large addition next to Grumman Hall and a small slender building directly behind Thurston (a design massing of Gates?). Hoy field is gone, replaced by four medium-sized-footprint structures making up a partial quad.

The plan suggests Rhodes is too tall for its location, so the new development next to Grumman builds up to it. At the end of its useful life, the demolition of Rhodes is suggested. Wow, not even twenty years old and Rhodes Hall is already having its demolition suggested. Garden Avenue would be extended between the parking garage and the new quad. The space created in the new quad would be between 249,000 and 378,000 sq. ft of space- about the same if you combined the new Physical Sciences. I’m kinda fond of Hollister Hall,  (I know, it’s a box, but it’s a decent international style box), so I’m a little disappointed to here it’s slated for demolition, but in general I’m more concerned with who Cornell hires to design the new building (I vote for Robert Stern).

Precinct 4 is the Bailey Plaza precinct. Here, Malott Hall has been demolished. I’m not too fond of that; I find the north wing to be a great example of 1960s architecture (to hell with the south wing). Again, it’s because of sight-lines; they want Bailey Hall and Plaza to be the focal point of this area. The plan goes even further to suggest the demolition of Roberts Hall once it goes beyond its useful life to enhance sight-lines even further.

Much to the disappointment (or delight, in some cases) of nutri sci majors, Savage and Kinzelberg would be demolished for a new structure, around 150,000 sq. ft in size and 3-4 floors. Newman Lab would also see the axe. The new building could be either research labs or a performing arts center to complement Bailey. But at the research institution that is Cornell, I have an idea which one would be preferred.

Precinct 5, the Garden Avenue area, has nothing new planned, nor nothing planned for demolition. Here’s an idea; use some of the steel and aluminum from Duffield’s facade and put it on Uris. But, I’m being unfair. Uris, built in 1972, was named for Percy and Harold Uris ’25; the libe was also dedicated to them in 1962, the first time it was renovated. Well, story goes that when Cornell gave them carte blanche on design preferences, they were in Pittsburgh, and noticed how amazing the (then new) U.S. Steel tower’s facade looked (which uses cor-ten steel). They wanted to see that on the new building [2]. So that’s why it was chosen. Cor-ten steel turns gold-yellow when it reacts with common air pollutants; well if Ithaca can claim anything, the air is pretty clean. So, no gold hues anytime soon (the last I heard, maybe 100 years).

Fully Weathered COR-TEN steel

Fully Weathered COR-TEN steel

The last precinct I’ll cover tonight is the Ag Quad. The Ag Quad is important to me because this is where I spend a good chunk of my life (that and the bowels of the engineering school, where engineers remind me every day why I study meteorology and not engineering). In particular, I live at the top of Bradfield. We think it’s the best view because of the height and the fact we don’t have to look at it. It’s like a pug, so ugly you can’t help but love it (it grew on me over months…okay, years). The additions to the ag quad are a new building over the gravel lot currently between Kennedy and Plant Sci, and the front of south side of Plant Sci. Really, we wouldn’t even need a new building on the parking lot if they hadn’t demolished East Roberts Hall in the late 1980s.

L to R: Roberts, Stone, East Roberts Halls

As for the Plant Sci addition, I was never fond of the front anyway. It was built in the depression, and it looks that way too. But no glass box, please. This precinct also includes the new MVR north, being built right now (there was an old MVR north; just search this blog for the story). It looks life Caldwell and Warren get back additions on their parking lots, and Bruckner Lab sees the wrecking ball to make room for a building that dwarfs neighboring Rice and Fernow Halls. They say Cornell builds in a style is fashionable at the time. If that’s the case right now, then stay off the Ag Quad. My trust with Cornell’s building proposal designs is quite low.

Thankfully, none of the plans are currently underway. I admit, if William Henry Miller were alive today, I’d be begging for the university to hire him. I’m not big on progressive architecture, but maybe that’s because I just don’t understand it. I like the traditional styles just fine.To be continued…[1]

[2] – see 12/27/2005



One response

24 07 2008

I like how each school as its own architecture- the gothic law school, modern engineering, Victorian business school, the Ag quad some kind of Romanesque deco/beaux arts? Each school should try to go along these lines somewhat when they’re building instead of all becoming modern.

I am all for demolition for views. It seems every other building built after WWII was a mistake. Shouldn’t we fix them? I do doubt that all/many of these demolitions- the store, Mallot, Roberts, are going to happen. They are running out of room on central campus and they can’t afford to have any more green space. On the case of Mallot- where would they put the math department?

I knew about the engineering buildings being already in development, but I didn’t know about the law school’s. I have faith in the law school. What’s that little piece sticking out of Annabel Taylor? I’m surprised there are no planned additions to Sage Hall.

I generally have no quips about anything the engineering schools builds. As long as its in their part of campus, the more modern the better, it fits with their school. The only thing that is a concern is if it’s too tall (e.g. Bradfield). I’d agree with the planners and say Rhodes is also too tall.

Another good factoid about Uris Hall. On the tours, they always tell you its suppose to be green.

The Ag school has the worst reputation for architecture I think, considering Bradfield, and Kennedy and Roberts. In my opinion, the demolition of Stone, and Roberts was worse than Boardman. I guess when they started tearing down East Roberts, the city of Ithaca made it a historic landmark and sued. So E. Roberts sat half-way demolished for a year until the court ruled that the Ag quad is state land and not subject to Tompkins County laws. (??) I’m not fond of the additions on Comstock, Warren, and Plant Science, in the Master Plan. They’ll end up looking like the addition on the butt of Caldwell hall. And the best gardens on campus are located behind Warren and in front of Plant Science.

As for Fernow and Rice, I believe the plans are underway. I guess they plan on moving everyone out of Fernow and into Bruckner and Rice, renovating Fernow, moving people out of Rice, renovating Rice, then move on to renovating plant science? Bruckner would then be demolished for better environmental science laboratories-maybe a home for the Center for a Sustainable Future. I guess they are in the ‘how are we going to move all these people’ phase right now.

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