Mui Ho Fine Arts Library

A New Landmark Library for Cornell University

The Mui Ho Fine Arts Library in Rand Hall welcomes patrons to a facility that houses one of the best circulating collections of fine arts and design materials in the country. The new library was designed by architect Wolfgang Tschapeller (M.Arch. '87), whose goal for the project was a 21st-century interpretation of the grand reading rooms associated with great research collections.

Following an 18-month renovation of historic Rand Hall (1911) that included the removal of the existing building's third floor, the library is now four levels of massed stacks with books suspended as a centerpiece.

The ground floor of Rand Hall is a new material practice center, including wood, metal, and digital fabrication shops, a maker space, a research lab, and a small-tool repository.

Mui Ho '62 (B.Arch. '66), an architect and educator retired from the University of California–Berkeley, committed $6 million to the library in 2013. The New York City–based STV is the architectural firm of record, with a team led by Harris Feinn (B.Arch. '69, M.Arch. '71).

Virtual Tour

Adaptive Reuse and Restoration

Designed by the Ithaca firm of Gibb and Waltz and opened in 1911, the building originally housed machine and pattern shops, and an electrical laboratory as part of the Sibley College of Mechanical Engineering.

In more recent years, architecture design studios occupied the top two floors. The envelope of Rand Hall required extensive rehabilitation, including rebuilding significant portions of the parapet, restoring/replacing the concrete cornice and frieze, repointing large portions of the brickwork, replacing the roof, removing a 1968 external egress stair tower, and providing thermal insulation to the building. The building is LEED Gold in part due to the significant energy savings from upgrades that include thermal installation, double-glazed windows, and the replacement of all mechanical systems, resulting in a projected 70 percent reduction of Rand Hall's energy use.

ADA Compliance

Designed and constructed to be fully ADA compliant, the library's design plans were reviewed by the City of Ithaca's director of code enforcement before construction.

As the authority with jurisdiction over the project, the city inspected the facility upon completion and confirmed its compliance with ADA standards. To aid individuals with mobility issues, all levels of the stacks have elevator access. The grated floors in the stacks can accommodate individuals with wheelchairs, canes, and other similar assistive devices. The library also offers a paging service for all its visitors, whereby library staff retrieves books upon the patron's request.

Brief History of the Collection

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 arts 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 grown to be one of the largest academic art and architecture libraries in the Northeast. The Mui Ho Fine Arts Library offers an ever-expanding collection of materials on architecture, art, city and regional planning, landscape architecture, and photography in various formats and in multiple languages. Growing by approximately 4,000 titles each year, the full collection comprises more than 267,000 volumes and subscriptions to more than 850 periodical titles. 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.


  • December 2017: Construction began

  • June 2019: Construction completed

  • August 2019: Opened for fall semester use

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