The Cornell Master Plan, Part 3 of 5

27 07 2008

So, picking up where we left off, we’ll be covering some of the more eye-opening parts of the Core Campus master plan.

So, this is one of the brand new ideas being churned out by the brains designing the master plan. Precinct 7 is known as the Alumni Quad (my brown-nosing sensors are going off). As most may be aware, the alumni quad is currently the site of the atheltic fields (Robison). A new road (Rice Drive) is built where the western edge of the track currently sits, and so Friedman Wrestling Center ends up sitting at an intersection. The proposed mid-campus walk runs through the alumni quad, and renovation of Schoellkopf’s facilities are suggested to accomodate some of the athletic uses lost due to the elimination of the track. Additional facilities would be built at Kite Hill (which even I have barely heard of).

Apparently, the master plan thought it would be pretty cool to put Schoellkopf’s parking lot underground and build athletic facilities (not to mention their would be a huge parking lot below the alumni quad). I wish them the best of luck, because with all of their planned subterranean parking, I’m sure hell will be raised at some point (ex. safety concerns).

Like with the building planned for Day Hall’s site, they gave one of the two new buildings defining the quad an odd footprint to minimize its usage of space. their goal in the design of this quad was to break up the density between the ILR-Biology Quad area and the proposed East Campus. Also, it would appaear that whatever that is planned next to Wilson Lab is currently in currently underway at some level, and another building, the 16,000 sq. ft addition to the heating plant, is also shown to be underway at the edge of the slide. The other building appears to be an addition to Friedman, which is quite curious considering Friedman is less than six years old [1]. Neither building would be more than a couple of floors, with a sq. footage between 37,000 and 93,000 sq. ft. total.

here’s my one minor critique; the backside of Bartels, which would be facing this quad, is neither interesting nor visually appealing. unless some renovation of the backside is planned, I’m not sure I would want that fronting the new campus green space. You might just as well but up a stone fence on the entire southern edge.

I look at precinct 8 and I don’t even know where to start. The proposed east center is a very large, massive set of new facilities that by any guess would run into the billions.

Footprint-wise, the area East Campus would cover is the area from the track field to Judd Falls Road, which is the next intersection just beyond the Dairy Bar. That’s a fairly large chunk of real estate. Withthe exception of the historical front portions of Stocking Hall and Wing Hall, all other current structures in that area would be demolished to make way for the new complex.

Most of the ten buildings in the complex have large footprints, and four of them feature tall, slender towers of slightly varying heights. Even before checking the parcel listings, you can look at the elevations and determine that they are slightly taller than Bradfield. With four to five story buildings on its perimeter, the place would be built up like a fortress, yet they try to maintain spaces between the buildings “to maintain porosity”.

Now, I remember hearing on one occasion that after the monstrosity of Bradfield Hall, Tompkins County would never allow any more tall buildings to be built on Cornell Campus. But, I’ve yet to see anything distinctly say as much, and I doubt that Tompkins County could reasonably exclude tall structures as long as they are not in the way of takeoff or landing patterns over at the airport. If you never noticed, look up at Bradfield during the night, and you’ll see the red warning lights on the roof to warn planes of its presence.

This isn’t the first time a building taller than Bradfield has been proposed either.  Fomr Blake Gumprecht’s Fraternity Row and Collegetown study (he studied Cornell for his research):

“Collegetown has undergone profound changes over the last quarter century.City officials began to press for the redevelopment of the neighborhood in 1968. The following year, a city-sponsored urban renewal plan called for theheart of Collegetown to be demolished and replaced with a massive, multipurpose development. It recommended construction of a large building on College Avenue that would include 375 apartments, 600 parking spaces, retail on the first and second floors, two movie theaters, a restaurant, and nine floorsof office space. It also called for the construction of six to eight high-rise apartment towers, the tallest eighteen to twenty-one stories. The plan went nowhere [2].”

The master plan states that the buildings would consist of classrooms and academic space on lower floors and residential/dorm space in the residential towers. Although I applaud the concept of “mixed-use”, I’m not exactly sure how well the idea would go over with the potential residents. However, it would seem the residential towers are meant for grad students, post-docs and professors. I’m not sure if this sounds more like an educational area or a self-enclosed research facility (I would sit back and watch as the city starts demanding taxes on it because they come to the same conclusion). The ground floors of the  building would have restaurants and cafes, and lounge spaces; the intention is for this area to be a vibrant 24-hour space. I would hope that all of the eating areas wouldn’t all be run my Cornell dining- the same set of baked goods and drinks gets real old, real fast.

There would be 85 to 120 units per resident building. Take that through eight to ten floors, and you have ten to fifteen units per floor. A major question that would have to be answered in the deisgn phases would be how much residentil space will be provided per unit; I can imagine that grads, post-docs and professors would want more living space than the 200 sq. ft rooms in some of the dorms. The max height of a single building entity would be about 210 feet, the same as a typical 20-story apartment tower, or a fifteen-story office building, to put it into perspective. The final square footage would be 1.5-2.2 million sqaure feet, at least six times the amount of space in Weill Hall (which is 262,000 sq. ft.).

At least 850 parking spaces will be located underneath the East Campus. The primary purpose for them is to provide parking fore the residents of the complex, but the plan also suggests that when they empty out in the evenings, they can be used by others in the Cornell community to maintain the vibrancy of the area. I just can’t get through the impression I’m getting that this isn’t so much academic as it is research, and while we are a research institution, I wonder if how much we’re trying to blur the line between Cornell the school and Cornell the research organization.

To be continued…part 4 will cover the last of the Core Campus.