October 15, 2012

Tech Campus Plans Fail to Impress New York Magazine’s Architecture Critic

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New York Magazine’s architectural critic on Sunday called newly-released plans for Cornell NYC Tech’s campus “inert and forbidding,” saying the project lacks creativity and borrows too much from the architect’s earlier works.

The University submitted a preliminary plan to New York City officials on Monday for review, giving the public a more detailed picture of the campus’ layout.

The master plan for the campus –– created by architecture giant Skidmore, Owings & Merrill –– calls for a pedestrian boulevard that zigzags through the 12-acre campus and is surrounded by academic buildings, a conference center and corporate workspaces. Rather than building the campus around a quad, green spaces are pushed to the island’s shores, providing sweeping views of Manhattan and the Queens waterfront.

The plan’s centerpiece is the main academic building, designed by Thom Mayne of Morphosis, a California-based architecture firm. Mayne’s initial design calls for a large open-floor plan modeled after the workspaces of tech firms such as Google, which will allow for collaboration among researchers.

To maintain Cornell’s commitment that the facility will produce all the energy it consumes, the building –– along with a “corporate co-location” building where companies can set up offices on campus –– is covered by a canopy of solar panels.

Though the renderings represent only an initial design, the campus plan failed to satisfy at least one architecture critic, New York Magazine’s Justin Davidson. Calling the grand canopy an “amoeboid blob,” Davidson was highly critical of Mayne’s design.

“What Mayne expresses with his big, complicated-looking learning contraption is an attitude of mechanistic awe, not the wild optimism of a field with no visible frontier,” Davidson said.

Though the academic building lacks Mayne’s trademark steel-clad exterior, Davidson said the design still leaves something to be desired.

“It’s a battleship-shaped building done in battleship gray, evoking not a loosey-goosey house of invention but a vessel crammed with tightly ordered compartments, an ark of discipline and routine,” he wrote.

Original Author: David Marten