Alternative cantilever plan for Milstein Hall announced

October 3, 2007

CHRONICLE ONLINE — The College of Architecture, Art, and Planning's Paul Milstein Hall project will continue to move toward approval for a summer 2008 groundbreaking, with a slightly different -- and costlier -- design. The college also has begun modifying and updating its facilities in Sibley and Rand halls, which will be connected to the new building.

On Sept. 25, the City of Ithaca Planning Board voted its intention to be the lead agency for environmental review for the project, which has been changed to a cantilevered building design, eliminating the need for supporting columns on both sides of University Avenue.

The planning board will review the updated design, which addresses prior concerns by city officials about the columns imposing limits on any future road widening. The cantilever design was among the original proposals for Milstein Hall by project architect Rem Koolhaas and his firm, the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA)-New York, but Cornell initially chose a less expensive plan, announced in September 2006, that incorporated the columns.

"A lot of us have been really excited by the cantilevered version of the project from the very beginning. It's great to see this design being pursued now," said AAP Dean Mohsen Mostafavi, noting that the cost of the cantilever will need to be added to the $41 million total Milstein project cost.

In addition to the planning board, the project will be reviewed by the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission since both Sibley and the Foundry are historic buildings.

Milstein Hall will be a state-of-the-art facility -- with an auditorium/lecture hall, classrooms and studios -- that will enable the college to retain key accreditations. It will also provide "new opportunities for collaborative pedagogy as well as social spaces for our students," Mostafavi said.

Expansion to Esty Street, changes on campus

AAP also began occupying a downtown building at 531 Esty St. over the summer. The site has space for up to six interim architecture studios, with 12 to 14 students per studio, as well as seminar rooms and offices for three faculty and staff. Currently, 25 students work in two studios at the 8,000-square-foot, two-story space.

Cornell transportation vans provide shuttle service to and from campus every half hour during hours of operation, and two adjacent lots provide about 50 parking spaces.

"The whole transition to Esty Street has been part of the preparations for Milstein," said Peter Turner, AAP assistant dean.

The site is being leased for four years to replace insufficient studio spaces in the basement of West Sibley. Those spaces will then be reconfigured with an eye toward access, both for trucks and for people with disabilities.

To meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, the college has spent $50,000 on accessibility since conducting a study of facilities in spring 2007; it hopes to install elevators and ramps in both Sibley and Rand halls and make other modifications before and during Milstein Hall construction, Turner said.

Accommodating staff is another ongoing challenge.

"We've been extremely pressed in East Sibley to find space for 24 full-time faculty and 27 visiting architecture faculty," Turner said.

Earlier this month, one of three trailers that had been behind Sibley Hall since 1996 was removed, displacing eight AAP staff and faculty who worked there. Working with Cornell Library, the college found space to build a marketing communications "team room" and three additional offices on the second floor of East Sibley. In exchange, AAP built a new seminar room and is equipping it with modern audiovisual equipment and distance learning technology for the Fine Arts Library.

AAP's Alumni Advisory Council, which met on campus last week, "were extremely enthusiastic about the project and the cantilever," Turner said. "They are fully supportive and determined to see it built as soon as possible."

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