News Tidbits 7/9/10: Thom Mayne to Design Gates Hall

9 07 2010

I consider this a very bad sign.

According to the Chronicle, Gates Hall will be located on the parking lot north of Hoy Field. This may or may not include demolition of the Grumman Squash Courts, as the article doesn’t clarify that. It will also be about 100,000 square feet and have a construction cost around $60 million. So, among other things, this means I shouldn’t pay attention to Cornell’s budget statements as they relate to building size, since it suggested 70,000 sq ft. More importantly, the site has been moved from its original location behind Thurston Hall. Schematic designs are expected by December, with completion by early 2014.

Now, Thom Mayne is another “starchitect”; which is nice, but shouldn’t be the big idea that’s being touted. Mayne’s firm is a rather small but highly respected company named Morphosis Architects. Morphosis has made their name doing really edgy, deconstructivist designs.

Uh oh.

For those unfamiliar with architecture, here’s the proposal that Morphosis submitted for Milstein Hall:

 That’s Lincoln Hall on the left. This proposal called for the demolition of Rand Hall and this…monstrosity to be built in its place. This isn’t pretty. It won’t even grow on you. This is outright hideous. It reminds me of Lady Gaga’s outfits — screams for attention, but wholly lacking in taste and functionality. This building actually makes me like Uris Hall.

Some might argue that they were purposely edgy since it was an architecture school building they were designing. I would love to believe that, but unfortunately that’s untrue.


This is one of their tamest designs, the Cahill Center for Astrophysics at Caltech. It’s bearable maybe. It sure as hell isn’t attractive. I wouldn’t dare point this out to prospective students and visitors if I were a tour guide. At least Weill and Milstein are inoffensive. This is analogous to mooning a bus full of orphans.

The San Francisco Federal Building? Another statement-maker of the unattractive kind. Thom Mayne is a great architect, but his designs are more for making statements than for being attractive. I want to know why Cornell thinks edgy design is the way to go. Many people have a strong avoidance of deconstructivism, and if MIT’s Stata Center is any clue, these buildings are so much more prone to rapid deterioration. To each their own I suppose. But I have a sinking feeling that Gates Hall is going to be a architectural blight onto the campus.



5 responses

9 07 2010

Though I haven’t been around the campus for some time, I don’t recall any other buildings similar to the ones you’ve shown here. They just don’t seem to fit in with my image of Cornell.

13 07 2010
Benjamin Waters

I consider this an extremely good sign. Thom Mayne is an incredible architect who has designed some the most eminent education buildings of the last decade: The Cooper Union and Diamond Ranch High School, just to name a few. His architecture is not only is beautiful, but is also significant in that the forms speak to the context of the site; they represent something so much grander that just the spaces they connect. His buildings challenge commonly held views on what constitutes architecture, and that same challenging of preconceptions speaks directly to one of Cornell’s maxims: “Open doors, open hearts, open minds.”

Personally, as a Cornell architecture student, I could not be more thrilled with the prospect of a campus with not only a building designed by Rem Koolhaas, but also by Thom Mayne. Cornell has been slow to hire prestigious architects (starchitects, as they’re known) to design its buildings and additions, but it is a change that I embrace wholeheartedly and with excitement for the future.

30 07 2010

As terrible as some contemporary architecture may be, I still think its a big improvement over the 60s and 70s.

10 10 2011

I really look forward to having a Thom Mayne building on our campus. He is a visionary. And by the way, anything across from the Super Computer center and the Engineering Quad will be stunning.

11 01 2014
News Tidbits 1/11/2014: Unhappy Faces on Roosevelt Island | Ithacating in Cornell Heights

[…] disclaimer: I’ve never been a fan of the tech campus. I’ve also never been a fan of Morphosis/Thom Mayne’s […]

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