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

The Cornell Master Plan: Part 1 of 5

22 07 2008

So, now that I’m done with the fraternity rush booklet, I’m going to do a new multi-part feature, this one focusing on the Cornell master plan. Look at it this way; I love reviewing the additions to Cornell’s physical plant, so this is the equivalent of giving a hit to a crack addict (okay, maybe not as detrimental to my health. But anyways…)

So, a little background. The plan was first initiated in late 2005 and took about two years to complete the final product [1], which was the culmination of the third and final phase of development. Up to that point, some open sessions were held at Willard Straight and at the Hilton Garden downtown (in Sept. 2007) for members of the community to comment on the findings, needs and projected developments of the university. The work was done by a Toronto-based planning firm, Urban Strategies Inc.

The plan tries to encompass the needs and concerns of the university and its physical plant. Among the primary issues, transportation and parking were major concerns, as well as maintaining a cohesive campus community and spatially harmonious design concepts in the planning of space throughout the campus. Also important was the development of additional facility to maintain Cornell’s capacity to be a top research institution.

So, the plan is set on the time scale of the next 10 to 25 years. The plan considers some of the following parameters; an increase of faculty from 1,600 to 1,700-1,800; an increase in graduate student population from 6,000 to 6,500-7,000; an increase of 700 staff from 8,400 to 9,100; and undergraduate to hold steady arond 13,500. The plan accomodates for 1-2 million more square feet of space, to be constructed in and around the Ithaca campus.

So, my goal is to pick this plan apart, piece by piece, and analyze the crap out of it. But if you want to see and read through the process that led them to create the parameters and design guidelines for the comprehensive master plan, here’s the link: (click on part I).

Clicking on part II’s “Core Campus” link, and sitting through the time that it takes for 76.99 MB to download, it opens up to a picture of Olin Libe and McGraw Tower. How pretty. Anyways, it talks about the importance of Central Campus as the hub of university activity. Here, they first mention the new 24-hour hub on the east side; that’ll be discussed more thoroughly in a later entry. One last thing- unless otherwise noted, no building is a concrete plan; they are merely suggestions as to a good way to develop the site. If master plans were always carried out to a tee, we’d have completely gothic west campus [3].

Yay for Prnt Scrn buttons! I’m not doing this with every page, just ones i’m going to focus on. Seriously, I suggest you go to the masterplan website, click on “part II”, “core campus”, and take a look. Or go to the listed source [2].

So, this is the overall plan. It worries me just a teeny bit when they mispell Bailey as “Baily”, since it is a whole area of discussion for them; but I can’t comment, my blog entries are filled with typos.

The page for demolished buildings and removed parking lots. the general goal of the master plan seems to be to hide the parking as much as possible, since it isn’t good for aesthetics, and isn’t pedestrian friendly. However, we still need it, so they shove it underground where possible. Milstein Hall would be a good example of that.

Development focus areas! Notice the massive changes on the east side of campus. Like I said, I’ll discuss those later, but they really stand out here.

The 3-D image of the improved Arts Quad. Mistein sticks out like an ugly chick in a beauty contest, but there’s hope for the Goldwin Smith extension, for  which planning is currently underway. I’m holding out for something modern yet respectful to the older architecture, like the addition to Lincoln Hall in 1998. 

The overhead. As you’ll notice in the pdf, Milstein has these symmetrical roof features at the top; I feel as if that was an attempt to spice up the miracle box. I’m still not impressed, but you can notice an extension that goes behing Sibley and behind Tjaden. I really hope the arrow means you can still walk between them. An extension of Milstein’s design is perhaps nto the most ideal, but maybe Cornell can come up with something good for the back areas of Tjaden and Sibley. You can also just make out the Johnson Museum addition, which area-wise looks small and quaint compared to the rest of the buildings. At a mostly subterranean 16,000 sq. ft, I s’pose it is.

New stuctures with the thick gray border have been given the go-ahead for planning. The footprints in blacks are areas of potential development suggested by the plan. As we see, the area behind Sibley and Tjaden is seen as the only reasonable space left to develop without disrupting the harmony of the ag quad. The next page states that these buildings would have the same height and massing as their older counterparts, but considering they’re home to Arts and Architecture, I would not be surprised if Cornell were to push for cutting-edge designs if they ever developed those plots, being artistcially daring and all. However, it’s amazing how cutting-edge can be so offensive to the eyes sometimes.

Buildings in mauve-purple? They’re historic. As much as I have a personal vendetta against Rockefeller Hall, particularly Room 203, it would be a major hassle to structurally change it. No demo there anytime soon (I think the story goes that the money John Rockefeller gave to the building went mostly to the interior mechanics, and little on the exterior and finishings, hence the spartan design. He hated it so much when he saw it he vowed never to donate money to Cornell again). My personal wonder is how the hell could Uris Hall be architectually significant. Is that like the equivalent of a massacre monument, to mark that something terrible happened on the land and we should all know about it? Uris Hall could be taken as a massacre on the eyes.

Also on this page are the noted sightlines for the Arts Quad; sightlines will play a bigger role in some others buildings on campus, as to whether they remain or not.

to be continued…