By design: Art and architecture signal Cornell Tech’s mission


The Bloomberg Center – in honor of Emma and Georgina Bloomberg, at dusk. Aiming for net zero energy efficiency, the building is powered by photovoltaic panels.

With an architectural design and aesthetic reflecting its mission of collaboration and innovation, Cornell Tech is dedicating a new type of urban campus on Roosevelt Island in the heart of New York City.

It is also a great place to visit.

“Roosevelt Island is very accessible, but many New Yorkers haven’t been to Roosevelt Island. We wanted to make it a critical mass destination, to attract people here, ”said founding dean and vice-provost Dan Huttenlocher during a campus tour on August 31.

Located just south of the Roosevelt Island streetcar, F subway station and a new ferry service, the campus is easily accessible from four of the city’s five boroughs, he said.

Inspired in part by corporate campuses such as Pixar’s in Emeryville, Calif., An “open, accessible, park-like environment” with river-to-river views surrounds the first three buildings. This is the Bloomberg Center, the first college building, with open floor plans and plenty of meeting rooms for collaborative working; La Maison, a 26-storey residential tower; and The Bridge at Cornell Tech, “a mix of academic and corporate space, for startups and for large business R&D and innovation labs,” he said.

Outdoor spaces feature landscaping with native plants around the quarter-mile Tech Walk, Great Lawn, and a central plaza. “The plantations make the place feel like a real campus,” Huttenlocher said.

The metallic facade of the Bloomberg Center incorporates a pattern created with an algorithm from images of the New York skyline and an Ithaca Gorge.

At the start of the semester, The House proved to be very attractive to students, he said, with around 70 percent choosing to live in the building. With 325 apartments (from studios to three bedrooms) for graduate students, post-docs and researchers, the building “will accommodate up to 500 graduate students at full capacity,” Huttenlocher said. Common areas and collaborative space include a two-story lobby and two top-floor lounges, set up for casual dining, TV, or billiards; and a furnished rooftop terrace with landscaping and barbecue equipment.

The Bridge at Cornell Tech is a co-location building, fostering business and technology innovation side-by-side by academics, the tech industry and industry students, faculty and startups. Cornell occupies about a third of the six-story building.

Cornell Tech’s facilities in the building include a master’s studio teaching space, research labs, and manufacturing spaces, many of which are visible behind interior floor-to-ceiling glass. The bow tie design by Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi, M.Arch. ’80, features cantilevered corner outcrops, interior views of the East River, an open-air classroom on the east side of the building, and eventual retail space on the ground floor.

A restored abstract mural by Albert Swinden, installed in The Bridge at Cornell Tech, was painted in 1942 for a hospital building that stood on the site.

Companies already committed to co-occupying the building include Citigroup, Two Sigma Investments and Italian chocolate maker Ferrero, all of whom are committed to digital innovation in their industries.

Inside the Bloomberg Center, “the second, third and fourth floors are all open-plan spaces and meeting rooms for researchers, for faculty members, for doctoral students. students and staff, ”said Huttenlocher. “Teaching takes place on the first floor of the lower level and also in The Bridge building.”

The integrated spaces are ultimately designed to make work easier, with “visual sightlines that connect people across multiple floors,” he said. “It really reflects an important academic design criterion: we have very, very different disciplines working here together, all focused on digital technology and its societal and economic implications. Designers, ethicists, business and law students, he said, “are part of academia that does not necessarily work with engineers and computer scientists on a daily basis.”

Other amenities: “phone booths” for cell or Skype calls, storage lockers, skylights, large translucent glass boxes as relaxed collaboration areas and “a very high density of small meeting rooms,” Huttenlocher said. . “Research is very difficult to do on a schedule, so professors need to be able to meet their doctorate. students and research teams without having to search and book a room.

Art as inspiration

Art is an integral part of Cornell Tech’s personality. The commissioned artwork reflects the creativity the campus seeks to nurture, and about 1% of the Bloomberg Center’s construction budget has been spent on artistic initiatives.

“One of the things that is very important in an academic space is to have things that take you out of your day-to-day state of mind,” Huttenlocher said. “So our perspective was not to have a gallery space but to actually have the art as part of the experience of people inside the building.”

The campus has over two acres of accessible outdoor space on Roosevelt Island, with a central plaza, Tech Walk, and outdoor classrooms. Manhattan is on the right.

Two large, technologically inspired works adorn the public spaces of the Bloomberg Center. For the ceiling and table tops of the downstairs café and lobby, artist Michael Riedel created black and white graphics based on Donald Knuth’s “The Art of Computer Programming”. Matthew Ritchie’s designs, covering the solid, glass walls of a four-story atrium, incorporate diagrams of the history of art and technology.

Emphasizing the eternal push and pull between nature and human endeavor, two small meeting rooms have been transformed by contemporary artists Matthew Day Jackson and Alison Elizabeth Taylor, who consciously explore natural themes and materials.

The campus also houses restored abstract and modernist murals that are part of the site’s historic past. Created under the auspices of the Works Projects Administration in 1942 and rescued from Goldwater Hospital before its demolition on the site in 2014, two canvas murals, each measuring 324 square feet, were relocated to campus this summer. A work by Albert Swinden is installed in The Bridge, and Ilya Bolotowsky’s mural occupies two curved walls in a custom-designed meeting room named after the artist at the Bloomberg Center. A third fresco, by Joseph Rugolo, will be incorporated into the design of a future building.

Sustainability redefined

The Bloomberg Center has a net zero energy goal, in which the campus generates as much energy over a 12-month period as the building uses, Huttenlocher said. The photovoltaic panels at the top of the Bloomberg Center and the bridge generate electricity, and “under the Great Lawn are about 80 geothermal wells, and they handle all the heating and cooling needs of the building, and the electricity powers them. circulation systems “.

The Cornell Tech Bridge incorporates the collaborative mission into the design, with multi-story views across various labs for academic and industrial research.

The house was developed to exacting energy efficiency standards for Passive House, the largest high-rise passive house building in the world. The passive house standard “is normally applied to single-family homes and low-rise apartment buildings,” Huttenlocher said. “The building is designed to use 60 to 70% less energy than a conventional high-rise residential building. “

A highly insulated building envelope and the use of materials such as triple-glazed windows help meet the standard. “The house maximizes natural light within passive house settings,” said Andrew Winters, director of capital projects and planning.

The geothermal heating and cooling systems are located in a louvered ridge that runs along one side of the building. Residents pay a single utility expense for electricity and can access energy consumption data.

“In seeking to innovate in sustainability, we brought in expert partners to help us develop these things,” said Huttenlocher. “We saw a real opportunity to try to redefine energy efficiency in high rise development in large cities. These measures, he said, “we felt it was the right thing to do to build a leading tech campus.”

The house, with apartments for Cornell Tech students and faculty, is the world’s first residential passive house skyscraper.

Sustainability reminders are everywhere. Around the elevators of The House’s 23 residential floors is a wallpaper of enlarged images from the “Carbon” series by photographer Charles Lindsay.

“The topic of carbon and energy is important to us,” said Winters.

To conserve water, the landscaped lawns and native plantings around buildings need only partial irrigation, from a 40,000 gallon tank collecting rainwater from the roof of the Bloomberg Center, a said Winters. The meadow to the south of the complex has been seeded with wildflowers to prevent erosion.

“Sustainability isn’t just about meeting energy consumption targets, it’s about wonderful places to live and work,” said Huttenlocher.


Joseph E. Golightly