Upson Hall Construction Update, 5/2017

22 05 2017

Home stretch for Upson Hall’s $74 million makeover. Nearly all of the turquoise water-resistive barrier (WRB) has been covered up with terracotta panels and aluminum inserts at this point. The utilities shaft and mechanical penthouse have been faced with a water resistant base layer and aluminum clips, and will be faced with grey metal panels. Note that those thin yellow aluminum plates on the exterior are a finished design featurethey’re intended to be a nod to the original canary yellow aluminum curtain bands that once lined Upson Hall’s facade. At this point, the upper three floors are occupied, the lower two floors and basement are being finished out, the exterior is nearly complete and interim landscaping features will be installed by The Pike Company before the building opens for full occupancy in August.

Over the next ten years, Cornell would like to utilize LTL Architects and Perkins + Will to redo the rest of the Engineering Quad with designs similar to Upson Hall. The $300 million plan also calls for the demolition of Carpenter Hall and a new multi-story building on the corner of Campus Road and College Avenue. Whether or not those things happen remains to be seen. The earliest renders of the Upson Hall plan are included at the end of this entry, and while the general design has remained the same, some of the design features, such as the shape of the bump-outs, the fenestration, and the emphasis on the south terrace were revised before the final plan was drafted.


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5 responses

22 05 2017
williamwarmus

The location at the corner of Campus Road and College Avenue is among the last remaining prominent locations on the central Cornell campus. The proposed redesign of the engineering quad is uninspired. One would hope that the corner building could be a more interesting design. Why is it that Cornell does not hold architectural competitions for major projects?

The law school quadrangle forms a U-Shape that is quite lovely and open. One of the problems of the engineering quadrangle across the street is that it is a blank wall that does nothing to echo or even recognize the openness of the law school quad. If the engineering redesign could force open a “window” onto the engineering quad, it would be a big aesthetic improvement.

22 05 2017
CS PhD

Yup, the contrast between the law school and the engineering school on College Avenue is quite striking, and not in a good way: a welcoming quad surrounded by ornate Gothic buildings, versus an unadorned wall of rusting concrete.

Good point about that corner of the engineering quad being a prominent location worthy of something more than a plain white box. Annabel Taylor sets a nice example on the other corner, so couldn’t Cornell come up with something better for this one?

22 05 2017
B. C.

I think the new building is probably just a conceptual massing at this point, but the design would likely be similar to the renovated structures.

24 05 2017
SJB

Important to note 2 things:
1. P+W, currently partnering with LTL, was the original architect for the engineering quad, so they are essentially being retained to renovate buildings they originally designed.
2. Cornell has typically shown a stronger desire to pick “favorite” architects/starchitects for projects as opposed to holding design competitions to look at designs from a variety of sources.

24 05 2017
williamwarmus

Your note number 1is enlightening. It explains why the new design proposal for the engineering quad will resemble the old design from an aesthetic point of view.

Assuming that it is too late to influence much of the renovation, I would still hope that we could draw Cornell’s attention to the corner at Campus Road and College Avenue as an opportunity for a major building.

In addition, the university should understand that the “unadorned wall of rusting concrete” ( in Cs PhD’s accurate phrase) opposite the law quad could become an opening onto the engineering quad, and needs to be a building as refined as the Neo-Gothic buildings opposite, rather than another replica of Upson Hall. Studio Gang comes to mind as an architectural practice that might be able to solve this design problem, for example.

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