September 20, 2006

Students Praise Milstein Design But Question Practicality

Print More

The scene was bizarre: renowned architect Rem Koolhaas was dressed in a track suit and standing behind a turntable as a disco ball spun and a stray llama drifted by in the background. Watching this animation on a screen, the Bailey Hall audience who had come to hear Koolhaas’ plans for Milstein Hall was surprised — to say the least.

AAP Dean Mohsen Mostafavi explained that the offbeat animation, displayed before the architect took the stage, was the work of a group of architecture undergraduates, who were preparing events to welcome Koolhaas to Cornell.
Mostafavi called the decision to ask OMA to design Milstein Hall “an easy choice,” noting that Koolhaas’ “presence has generated a lot of excitement on campus.”

This enthusiasm was evident as Koolhaas began outlining his plans for Milstein Hall, described as “a college-wide facility” that would allow for “collaboration across the disciplines.”

Student reactions to the plans seemed mostly positive after Koolhaas’ presentation, with Alex Woogmaster ’10, a second-year AAP student, calling the plans “great,” adding that the building was going to be an “obvious presence” that allowed AAP students to be showcased — a way, he said, to dispel the stereotype about workaholic, little-seen architecture students.
While Woogmaster called Koolhaas’ plans for Milstein Hall, “very revolutionary,” and predicted that the building will quickly become an iconic part of Cornell’s landscape, others were concerned about the practicality of the plans.

When Mostafavi opened the floor to audience questions at the end of Koolhaas’ presentation, one student brought up her concerns about the availability of studio space in the new building. Koolhaas answered simply — and to some audience laughter—that “there are as many studios as they asked for.” Mostafavi elaborated that the net gain of square footage for Milstein Hall was 10,000 square feet, and that by moving the Fine Arts library from its current location in Sibley Hall to Milstein, more studio space would become available for students in Sibley.

Mostafavi encouraged students to express their feedback about the plans for Milstein Hall, both by speaking to the students on the planning committee and by e-mailing project leader John McKeown.

Other students voiced similar concerns about the practicality and division of the available space in Milstein. Jesica Bello ’11, a first-year AAP student, said that she “loved the building,” but felt there was “too much common space,” and a lack of separation between common areas and studio space.

Adriana Garibaldi ’09 agreed. She felt that the design for Milstein Hall was neglecting the Foundry, the sculpting studio behind Sibley Hall, and that there existed “practical issues” with the building’s design.
Garibaldi also said that, while Koolhaas’ design intends to allow students a view of the gorge separating North Campus from Central by way of a rooftop balcony level, she felt that the “connection between the arts quad and the gorge is lost.”

Koolhaas, a guest lecturer in April 2005, also revealed plans to include a new “Sibley plaza” area behind Sibley Hall and a focus on Milstein Hall’s usefulness for a variety of student activities both for students in the College of Art, Architecture, and Planning and Cornell students in general.

While students questioned some of the practical implications of Koolhaas and OMA’s design for Milstein Hall, it was evident that the general reactions of students to the plans were positive.