While many great achievements will undoubtedly come out of this new tech hive, great architecture is not likely to be one of them
The Emma and Georgina Bloomberg Center (credit: Matthew Carbone)
All New Yorkers should welcome the new Cornell Tech campus, which just opened its first buildings on Roosevelt Island. This ambitious project will only strengthen New York’s place in the world of tech development and will rival anything on the West Coast.
We can all thank Michael Bloomberg, who pushed the project while he was mayor and has since followed up with a $100 million donation to bankroll the campus’s epicenter: The Emma and Georgina Bloomberg Center. But while many great achievements will come out of this new tech hive, unfortunately great architecture is not likely to be one of them. That’s judging from the pallid master plan, conceived by Colin Koop of Skidmore, Owings Merrill, and from the first three buildings at the project.
Those buildings are the Bloomberg Center and the Bridge at Cornell Tech — which have both opened — as well as the nearly complete House at Cornell Tech, a residential building for students and faculty. Ground will soon break on the Verizon Executive Ed Center and the Graduate Roosevelt Island Hotel, which have both been designed by the international firm Snøhetta.
When complete in 2043, the 12-acre Cornell Tech engineering campus — a collaboration between Cornell University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology — will have 10 buildings and 2.5 acres of open space, stretching across the island with sweeping views of Queens and Manhattan. It will be, according to its website, one of the planet’s most energy-efficient campuses.
But architecturally, the problems with Cornell Tech are twofold: The first is the clamorous diversity of the overall architecture, and the second is the design quality of each building.
The project presented a perfect occasion to hire a single architect — say, Renzo Piano, who designed much of Columbia University’s new Harlem campus, or Stephen Holl, who designed the Campbell Sports Center in Upper Manhattan. The absolute dream would have been Santiago Calatrava, who surpasses all other living architects and who could have created a marvel out of a group of buildings, as he did with his City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, Spain.
As it stands, Cornell Tech has enlisted some fairly middling talents alongside star architects. For starters, there’s no cohesion among the first three buildings, other than that they all exhibit some degree of the formulaic asymmetries of the Deconstructivist style that is now the official language of money and power.
The Bloomberg Center is the work of Thom Mayne of the Pritzker Prize-winning firm Morphosis Architects. The building’s hulking bronze mass recalls the firm’s dark and bulky Cooper Union building, which opened in 2009 on the Bowery — though it’s a slightly improved version, avoiding the cheap feeling that the earlier building exudes.
This building is crowned by a detached roof, referred to as “swooping lily pad-shaped.” According to the project’s website, the rooftop includes “geothermal heating and cooling systems” that are part of its passive energy-efficient design. But from a design perspective it looks superfluous.
The building consists of four stories of intermittent ribbon windows set into a metallic cladding that’s textured with thousands of circular openings. But on a recent visit, these coin-sized adornments appeared too small to save large portions of the爱上海同城论坛