January 24, 2007

New Milstein Revealed

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Mohsen Mostafavi, dean of the College of Architecture, Art and Planning, presented sketch plans for the new Milstein Hall yesterday to Ithaca’s Planning and Development Board in City Hall. The new building proposal links Rand Hall with Sibley Hall and provides a larger, more continuous space for architecture students. The proposed building will contain studio space, criticism rooms and an extension of the fine arts library. Pritzker prize-winning architect Rem Koolhaas designed the box-shaped building. It is planned to be built behind Sibley, off of the Arts Quad.

Mostafavi began the presentation by showing some of Koolhaas’ past work and outlining the architectural history of Sibley and the Arts Quad. Milstein is intended to be a model consistent with existing architecture, which Mostafavi said “is one of the critical aspects of the project.”

According to Mostafavi, architects considered various other locations, but ultimately decided to place Milstein behind Sibley in order to link the existing AAP buildings. Milstein Hall will bridge over University Avenue, allowing vehicles to pass under.

According to board member Tim Cullenen, this feature has raised concerns from the Board of Public Works. The site will continue to have a bus stop, the design of which Cullenen said might also cause problems for TCAT.

Andrew Magre ’91, project manager for Planning, Design and Construction, said that the building meets clearance standards, which should allow vehicles as tall as buses to pass through easily.

Another issue raised by the board is that the the columns supporting the structure could prevent “the city from widening the avenue in the future,” said John Schroeder ’74, chair of the board and Sun production manager.

Several pillars on either side of University Ave. will provide support for the building. This could prevent the city from making future alterations to the width of University Ave., like the addition of bicycle lanes.

Magre said that this issue has been brought up before, and it is something that was considered when designing the building. The board also raised issues concerning environmental review of a newly proposed two-story parking lot west of Milstein Hall that was included in the sketches.

Mostafavi explained that the new parking lot, which will contain 170 parking spaces, is separate from the Milstein project. A parking lot already exists behind Sibley, but the new construction will eliminate 45 spaces. The proposed parking lot is still being considered.

The proposed designs for Milstein Hall have proved controversial in recent months. In the past, students have questioned the practicality of the structure, asking Koolhaas at a previous presentation whether the building plans would afford sufficient studio space for the architecture department. Koolhaas responded that “there are as many studios as they asked for.”

Additionally, Cornell representatives met with William Gray, superintendent of public works, in early November to discuss the plans for Milstein Hall and to voice their concerns about the project. Despite the concerns, though, Environmental Compliance Officer Steve Beyers said that if all goes well with the Milstein Hall project, Cornell can “hopefully have a proposal by February.”