March 12, 2012

Architect Koolhaas Speaks at Milstein Event

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Last weekend, about 800 faculty, staff, students and alumni of the University’s College of Architecture, Art and Planning gathered for Celebrate Milstein Hall, an event featuring lectures, exhibitions and performances by AAP alumni and faculty.

The celebration commenced Friday afternoon with an event featuring Rem Koolhaas, the Dutch architect who designed the building. About 300 audience members filled the Abby and Howard Milstein Auditorium to hear the architect discuss his life story, learn what inspired his style and engage him in a question and answer session.

Though the building’s construction took only two years, AAP Dean Kent Kleinman said that Milstein Hall was more than a decade in the making.

During the talk, Koolhaas described how, when he was 24 years old, working as a journalist in Paris, he decided that he wanted to become an architect instead.

Koolhaas said that as an architecture student in London, he was particularly inspired by famed German architect Mathias Ungers. Koolhaas later studied under Ungers at Cornell in 1969 –– the first year that Ungers served as the Chair of the Department of Architecture.

Koolhaas described Ungers as an architect whose “drive was not entirely to do new things, but to love buildings that exist.”

Many people at the event praised Koolhaas’ project for its innovative approach to design.

“The building connects previously isolated buildings,” Kleinman said of Milstein Hall.

Both Kleinman and Koolhaas emphasized the importance of preserving buildings, rather than just simply tearing down structures and building new ones in their place. In particular, they said that Milstein Hall embraced modernity while maintaining an appreciation for the beauty of the adjacent older structures, Rand and Sibley Halls.

Koolhaas and Klienman also said that with the development of Milstein Hall, they wanted to create a building that would encourage academic growth and expansion.

“Faculty and students can now bump into each other and see what the other is doing in a casual way that just didn’t happen before,” Kleinman said. “I believe that’s a form of education.”

Koolhaas also emphasized the role of the public sector in the process of designing a building. He said his buildings are ones that have the potential to be “consumed by the population at large.”

Kleinman echoed this sentiment, saying that Milstein Hall was built “100 percent for performance.”

Keith Heron ’82, an alumnus of the College who now works in the Office of Building and Code Enforcement in Binghamton, N.Y., said he believes students will benefit from the new studio space in Milstein Hall.

AAP student Tamara Jamil ’16 added the building has room for improvement.

“Its current condition is pristine, not personal,” she said. “Milstein is a great building; it just has to adapt more to us students, not the other way around.”

Kleinman said that since the building has only been in use for about a semester and a half, both faculty and students are still learning how to use it.

“We have to figure out how to play it,” Kleinman said. “It’s going to take longer than that to figure out how to use all its beautiful pieces.”

Original Author: Sarah Sassoon