AAP Alumni Lead Upson Hall Transformation

A five-story modern building with a facade many windows
The renovated Upson Hall opened in the fall semester. photo / Michael Moran Photography
Balck and white photo of a four-story academic building with a facade of many windows
Upson Hall when it opened in 1958. photo / Cornell University Library Rare and Manuscript Collections
Interior hallway and staircase of a modern building lit by a wall of large windows
Upson Hall’s renovated interior features contrasting jambs and sills set at angles that maximize daylight reflection. photo / Michael Moran Photography
The renovated Upson Hall opened in the fall semester. photo / Michael Moran Photography Upson Hall when it opened in 1958. photo / Cornell University Library Rare and Manuscript Collections Upson Hall’s renovated interior features contrasting jambs and sills set at angles that maximize daylight reflection. photo / Michael Moran Photography
News
May 8, 2018

After a multiyear renovation project, Upson Hall — located on the Engineering Quad of Cornell's Ithaca campus — was opened and formally dedicated during the fall semester. The renovation's interdisciplinary design team was led by two AAP alumni — Robert Goodwin (B.Arch. '84), of Perkins+Will's New York City studio; and David J. Lewis (M.A. HAUD '92), principal at Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis (LTL) Architects, based in New York City — in collaboration with the engineering firms Thornton Tomasetti and ME Engineers.

Upson Hall houses facilities, labs, and classrooms for the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) and the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Renovations to the 60-year-old building create state-of-the-art research labs and flexible, technology-enhanced classrooms; achieve significant energy performance; and establish a distinctive new identity for MAE and engineering.

According to Lewis, "In repurposing a post–World War II building, the Upson Hall project transforms a work of international modernism into a highly tuned, site-specific building. The result exemplifies the creative synthesis of the disciplines of architecture and engineering, setting a precedent for the future of the Engineering Quad."

The original 160,000-square-foot structure was designed by Perkins+Will founders Lawrence Perkins (B.Arch. '30) and Philip Will Jr. (B.Arch. '28), who met at Cornell while studying architecture. The first of a complex of seven buildings that eventually formed the Engineering Quad, Upson Hall was the result of a postwar building boom intended to accommodate the rapid growth of education and research on American campuses.

In the redesign, the modernist "ribbon-window" facade now has three different terra-cotta profiles that highlight shadow patterns and reflect the stratified rock of the local geology. New cantilevered public spaces at the corners have large expanses of glass, inviting the campus into the interior. The original facade color is subtly referenced in yellow vertical panels while contrasting jambs and sills set at angles maximize daylight reflection into the interior.

Sophisticated mechanical, lighting, and control systems boost the building's energy performance levels and create a highly responsive environment that enables students to work, learn, and study in a technologically advanced facility. The project is currently tracking LEED Platinum, a significant achievement for research lab buildings, and, along with landscape architect Trowbridge Wolf Michaels Landscape Architects, LTL and Perkins+Will received a Merit Award in architecture from the AIA New York 2018 Design Awards.

For Goodwin, the Upson Hall project is not just a renovation. "It's really the complete transformation of a 20th-century engineering building to express 21st-century aspirations for learning, research, and energy performance," Goodwin says. "Everyone dreams of making a building where they went to architecture school, and it's been a true privilege to work with my alma mater to add to the Cornell campus and give new life to a legacy Perkins+Will building."

The design team also included Craig Sobeski (M.Arch. '07). Another principal of LTL is Marc Tsurumaki, visiting critic in architecture at Cornell AAP NYC. The renovation project was completed in August at a cost of $74.5 million and is part of an overall Engineering Quad makeover.

By Patti Witten