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.

The new roof massing and historic preservation

Outline drawing of Cornell skyline

Articulated skyline of Cornell.

Rand Hall is not a designated landmark, but serves as one for Cornellians, especially for generations of architects who had studio desks in the building. The new roof super-structure is a direct consequence of the section, in which four levels of narrow book stacks are arranged vertically to provide floor space for collective reading, study, and public computing. The vertical stacks rise up beyond the original roofline, requiring a new building terminus. Cornell AAP is using this opportunity to signal the new, hybrid nature of Rand Hall with a distinctive formal and material expression.

The building's roof lantern addition is designed to become part of Cornell's campus skyline, which includes instantly recognizable forms including the McGraw Tower (1891), Sibley Hall dome (1902), and I. M. Pei's Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art (1973).

The lantern provides the volume needed to house the uppermost level of books, and also provides day lighting for the double-height interior space of the library. A seminar room will be housed at the eastern-most end of the lantern, perched high enough to offer a survey of Fall Creek Gorge and Beebe Lake, both natural landmarks for Ithaca.

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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.

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First level

First level plan (SD)

Schematic design. © 2015 Wolfgang Tschapeller

First level: Book stacks, open reading room with flexible collaborative work spaces, 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 level

Second level plan (SD)

Schematic design. © 2015 Wolfgang Tschapeller

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

Third level

Third level plan (SD)

Schematic design. © 2015 Wolfgang Tschapeller

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

Fourth level

Fourth level plan (SD)

Schematic design. © 2015 Wolfgang Tschapeller

Fourth level: Book stacks and a seminar room overlooking spectacular views of Beebe Lake and the gorge.

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Cross section

Cross section (SD)

Schematic design. © 2015 Wolfgang Tschapeller

Three levels of book stacks within the two-story upper portion of Rand Hall; the fourth level of stacks in the new superstructure; transfer beams carry the stack loads to building perimeter. Poor soil bearing capacity requires augmenting the foundations; the structure configuration limits foundation work to the perimeter columns only.

Longitudinal section

Longitudinal section (SD)

Schematic design. © 2015 Wolfgang Tschapeller

The main floor aligns with the adjacent L.P. Kwee studios in Milstein Hall (left). Four levels of stacks will hold approximately 125,000 volumes. A seminar room on the east end of the new superstructure offers sweeping views of Bebee Lake. The first floor of Rand Hall is the AAP shop.

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South elevation

South elevation (SD)

Schematic design. © 2015 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 superstructure is clad with differentially-perforated stainless steel.

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  • October 2017: Construction begins
  • May 2019: Construction completes
  • August 2019: Open for fall semester use

Schedule and Milestones (PDF)

FAQ for Temporary Relocation of the Fine Arts Library

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