September 20, 2006

$40 Million Milstein Hall Plans Announced

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The Pritzker prize-winning architect Rem Koolhaas revealed to the Cornell community in Bailey Hall yesterday plans for the new College of Architecture, Art and Planning building, Milstein Hall. This $40 million building will be placed on the Arts Quad and is meant to coincide with the two current AAP buildings, Rand and Sibley Hall.

Mohsen Mostafavi, dean of AAP, told the audience that planning for the building has been difficult.

“I don’t want you to think getting here has been an easy journey,” he said.
Over 100 meetings were held to determine the project’s final design and two architecture firms were rejected before the University finalized a plan with the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), which is lead by six architects including Koolhaas.

Despite all the considerations that went into the planning, Mostafavi said, “the choice of OMA, in many ways, has been an easy one.” OMA was able to design the building without requiring the destruction of Rand Hall and allowing room for future on-campus development. The building will be placed between Foundry and Rand and will be north of Sibley Hall.

Before revealing the design for Milstein Hall, Koolhaas displayed some of his past major works on Bailey’s screen, including the $600 million CCTV tower in Beijing. While showcasing his creations, he pointed out a common theme among the buildings that will be the basis of Milstein Hall’s look; his dedication to “the box.” As Koolhaas’ major works are examples of polygonal artistry, “What we propose for Ithacans is another box,” he said.
Milstein Hall will occupy 43,000 square feet and is designed to fit around Rand and Sibley Hall, as well as bridge over University Avenue. “I think it is located in a very complicated situation,” Koolhaas said. “It is a box that is contaminated by its neighbors and will contaminate its neighbors.”

According to Koolhaas, the building is supposed to liven up the neglected area behind Sibley Hall. “It looks like there is a war zone behind Sibley, which detracts from one of campus’s greatest features, the gorge,” he said. The building is designed to provide views of the gorge and the surrounding landscape.

Another OMA architect, Shohei Shigematsu, presented the design in further detail. The new building will have an array of features including studios, an auditorium, a library, a lobby and a roof with skylights. The building will be multi-layered with its middle plate “floating in the air.” Pillars will hold the middle plate up and will allow pedestrians, as well as vehicles driving down University Avenue, to travel under. The building is designed for the use of all University students, but with a special focus on the architecture department.

Andreka Watlington ’10, an architecture student, comprehends the difficulty of designing a building that must adhere to so many limitations due to the surrounding buildings. “You have to realize this is an architectural problem and just as any problem there isn’t one correct solution,” she said. “[Koolhaas] presented the first overall schematic solution.”

The University is expected to break ground in 2007 and the building is scheduled to open in 2009. Koolhaas hopes that the Milstein Hall will become iconic. “The ability to produce landmarks is extremely important, and this is our landmark,” he said.