November 11, 2002

Barkow Leibinger Replace Holl as Milstein Architects

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The College of Architecture, Art and Planning recently selected Berlin firm Barkow Leibinger Architects to design the $25 million Milstein Hall. The building will replace Rand Hall and house the department of architecture.

“This is a small firm, but on my scale of one to 10, we are talking of between eight and nine,” said Porus Olpadwala, dean of the architecture college.

Olpadwala said that the decision to hire Barkow Leibinger Architects was unanimous among members of the selection committee, which was formed after the original architect selected, Steven Holl, departed from the project last summer.

The committee included several architecture faculty members, University Architect Peter Karp and representatives from the Office of Buildings and Properties.

Karp and architecture department chair Nasrine Seraji could not be reached for comment.

The University could not agree on the proposed design and budget of the building with Holl, whose design caused controversy among many architecture alumni last year.

“I am absolutely delighted by the choice,” Olpadwala said.

A member of the selection committee, Prof. Val Warke, architecture, added, “Everybody involved was very enthusiastic about the firm.”

“There was no real vote,” Warke said, referring to the decision. “I don’t think there was any dissension.”

Olpadwala commented on the college’s choice of a small firm, which is relatively unknown in the United States.

“One of the genius things about this choice is that it’s a very, very good firm, reasonably well-known in Europe, but by God they will be [known in America] after this building,” he said.

Warke also noted the unexpected nature of the choice.

“The spirit of architecture at Cornell has always been involved with the much more experimental,” he said. “I don’t think that there should be any problems.”

Barkow Leibinger was founded in 1993 by Frank Barkow and Regine Leibinger. Barkow was a visiting art critic at Cornell from 1990 to 1992.

Both architects are better known for their academic work at various institutions, according to Warke. The firm specializes in industrial buildings, laboratories and office buildings. Among the awards garnered by the firm’s projects are the American Institute of Architects Honor Award in 1999 and the Progressive Architecture 1998 Citation Award.

Late last month, four architecture firms came to Cornell to participate in discussions with the selection committee. Based on the firms’ presentations and other criteria, the committee chose Barkow Leibinger last week.

At the earliest, construction is expected to begin in Fall, 2004, according to Karp in an interview last month.

Archived article by Andy Guess