the built reality that is now cornell tech sits on the southern side of new york’s roosevelt island. a close neighbor to louis kahn’s four freedoms park, the campus embodies the future of academic architecture. in the initial phase of the project, weiss/manfredi, morphosis, and handel architects each designed a building for the growing campus — keeping in mind the institution’s vision for the future. designboom was part of an exclusive tour where we took an inside look at the project before it opens to the public for the first time.

cornell tech
the 2017 campus of cornell tech contains three distinct building by individual firms
image © iwan baan (also main image)

 

 

cornell tech’s overall masterplan, devised by skidmore owings merrill, made sure that portions of the 12.4 acre campus were elevated above the 100-year and 500-year floodplains to combat rising sea levels and potential natural disasters. the plan was also designed with an overall flexibility to allow for necessary changes as the institution continues to grow and the campus with it. 

cornell tech
‘the bridge’ contains 1/3 student work space, and 2/3 office space for tech companies directly on campus
image © iwan baan

 

 

‘the bridge,’ designed by weiss/manfredi, contains space with myriad of functions. the north and south wings of the building are connected by a central bow-tie space that enhances the island’s breathtaking views and allows generous amounts of natural light into the interior. the design designates that about one third of the space contains one-third studio and lab space for students, and the other two-thirds contain the offices of thriving tech startups as they grow alongside the campus — revolutionizing the relationship between the academic sphere and career workplace by creating a dynamic dialogue between the two.

cornell tech
morphosis designed the bloomberg center with classrooms and office space inside
image by matthew carbone for morphosis

 

 

the openness of the interior allow it to feel essentially wall-less — creating a seamless progression into the building from the exterior landscape. michael manfredi described the firm’s desire for building’s program to remain as open as possible. ‘often buildings like this, incubator buildings, are rather anonymous, introverted, very opaque boxes. I think we really wanted to take that paradigm and turn it inside out so that people from different levels of sophistication, technical knowledge, artists, scientists, and social scientists can rub shoulders in the sense of trying to use architecture to encourage peripheral vision.’ collaboration is key to the school’s mission. this, along with the school’s desire to keep much of the campus open to the public is clearly reflected in ‘the bridge’s’ architecture.

cornell tech
most of the campus is open to the public to further facilitate the free exchange of ideas
image © designboom

 

 

the bloomberg building, designed by morphosis under the direction of thom mayne, is a net-zero building dedicated to preserving the building’s energy resources, while embracing the island’s breathtaking view of midtown manhattan. the interior contains different interpretations of privacy with certain spaces catering to collaboration, and others to individual or isolated work. the building’s stair cantilevers over the open plaza space outside with landings large enough for a group to assemble.

cornell tech
successful tech companies and startups have offices just feet away from cornell tech classroom and lab spaces
image © designboom

 

 

the location of the building marks the entrance to the growing campus at its northern limit. the intended facade design had to intrigue, excite, and invite visitors onto the campus. once on site, the public is free to enter into the lobby and eat in the ground floor cafe below a patterned ceiling containing a mix of zeros and ones — a reference to the david knuth’s ‘the art of computer programming,’ the first computer programing textbook published in 1962.

cornell tech
the building was designed from the top down, beginning with the lily pad shape of the roof
image © designboom

 

 

 

‘the house,’ designed by handel architects, is the first large scale passive housing complex in new york city, containing twenty-six floors and 352 units for students and staff. to successfully design a passive house, the architects focused on three main aspects of the structure: the insulated envelope that wraps around the interior spaces, fresh air circulation, and efficient heating and cooling systems. construction next to the residential tower marks the beginning of phase two, which includes a hotel and the verizon executive education center.

cornell tech
the interior stair extends over the exterior plaza, creating additional space to meet and gather
image © designboom

cornell tech
the textured facade combats the need for an enclosed interior to reduce the building’s energy usage
image © designboom

cornell tech
the interior contains certain spaces catering to collaboration, and others to individual or isolated work
image by matthew carbone for morphosis

cornell tech
the cafe ceiling contains a series of zeros and ones paying homage to the first computer science textbook
image by matthew carbone for morphosis


thom mayne sits in the building’s open staircase with extensive landings in which people can gather
image © designboom

cornell tech
‘the bridge’s’ design creates an effortless flow between the carefully curated landscape and the building’s interior
image © iwan baan

cornell tech
open space and scattered seating allow natural light to flood the interior
image © iwan baan

cornell tech
each of the buildings capitalize on the island’s unparalleled surrounding views of manhattan and queens
image © iwan baan

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