Project Details for Rand Hall and Mui Ho Fine Arts Library

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Adaptive Reuse and Restoration

Back and white image of Rand Hall

Historic image of Rand Hall before the egress stair tower was added in 1968.

The envelope of Rand Hall requires extensive rehabilitation including rebuilding major portions of the parapet, restoring/replacing the concrete cornice and frieze, repointing large portions of the brickwork, replacing the roof, restoring the original brick envelope, removing a 1968 external egress stair tower, and providing thermal insulation to the building, which is not currently insulated.

Many universities across the country are challenged by the combined imperatives of maintaining legacy buildings while investing in new academic facilities. This project both rehabilitates an iconic Cornell building while radically adapting it to a new program. The architectural goal is to respect the past while projecting boldly into the future in order to stage a temporal dialogue. The project is an apt architectural analogue to our academic mission.

Aerial view of the Arts Quad.

Rand Hall is sited at the gateway to those entering Cornell from the north-east, and the axial terminus of East Avenue, the "main street" of campus. This project will completely rehabilitate the building envelope of Rand Hall and restore the structure to its original transparency and massing. To celebrate this highly visible site, the project will provide a reinforced rooftop deck to host full-scale experimental structures designed by Cornell faculty and students. Temporary and speculative, these constructions will anchor the site with rooftop testimonials to ongoing research in architecture and the built environment.

Brief History of the Collection

Sepia image showing sheleved books

A. D. White Library, circa 1900.

In 1876, Cornell's first president, Andrew Dickson White, came to a fortuitous arrangement with the university's board of trustees: The board would support the founding of a school of architecture in exchange for a gift by the president of his prized collection of fine art and architecture books. Thus, almost 140 years ago, two Cornell legends were founded simultaneously: one of the country's most acclaimed programs in architecture, and one of the country's most renowned fine arts library.

Over the decades, the fine arts collection has expanded and deepened to include materials touching all the fine art and design disciplines including landscape architecture, art history, classics, archeology, planning, apparel design, museum studies, and many others. It is the most heavily used special collection at Cornell, valued across the university and well beyond as a teaching and research resource of rare quality.


Ground floor: AAP Shops

floorplan of AAP shops

Comprehensive analogue and digital fabrication center comprising wood and metal shops, a digital fabrication facility, hand tool repository, faculty research lab, and an expansive maker space.

First library level

First level plan (SD)

Schematic design. © 2015 Wolfgang Tschapeller

Book stacks, open reading room with flexible collaborative workspaces, 18 individual study carrels for focused research, public computing and output devices, circulation desks, and direct access to the L. P. Kwee Studios in Milstein Hall.

Second library level

Second level plan (SD)

Schematic design. © 2015 Wolfgang Tschapeller

Book stacks; seminar room for classes, meetings, and collaboration; and librarian offices.

Third library level

Third level plan (SD)

Schematic design. © 2015 Wolfgang Tschapeller

Book stacks, display area, and reading room overlooking the expansive spaces below.

Roof level

design development phase plan of roof

Design development phase. © 2017 Wolfgang Tschapeller

Experimental pavilion roofscape.


Transverse section

Transverse section (DD)

Design development phase. © 2017 Wolfgang Tschapeller

Three levels of book stacks within the two-story upper portion of Rand Hall; transfer beams carry the stack loads to building perimeter. Poor soil bearing capacity requires augmenting the foundations with micropiles.

Longitudinal section

Longitudinal section (DD)

Design development phase. © 2017 Wolfgang Tschapeller

The main floor of the library aligns with the adjacent L. P. Kwee studios in Milstein Hall (left). Three levels of stacks will hold approximately 125,000 volumes. The ground floor of Rand Hall is the AAP shops.


South elevation

South elevation (DD)

Design development phase. © 2017 Wolfgang Tschapeller

The entire building envelope will be remediated. Interior-side thermal insulation and insulated glazing will significantly improve the energy performance of Rand Hall. The accessible roof will have a structurally reinforced deck to host full-scale experimental pavilions designed and fabricated by Cornell faculty and students.


  • December 2017: Construction begins
  • June 2019: Construction completes
  • August 2019: Open for fall semester use

FAQ for Temporary Relocation of the FAL