Annual Goldsmith Lecture Examines Passive House at Cornell Tech Campus
On Monday, April 11, Gary Handel (B.Arch. '78) and Blake Middleton (B.Arch. '78, M.Arch. '81) gave the annual L. Michael Goldsmith Lecture at AAP NYC. They presented case studies of the work of Handel Architects in New York City, Boston, and San Francisco, and discussed the design and construction of the world's tallest Passive House building at the future Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island in New York City.
The 26-story Passive House residential tower is a joint venture between The Hudson Companies, The Related Companies, and Cornell University. It will be the first residential high-rise in the world to meet the strict international building standards that reduce energy consumption by 75% over conventional buildings, while creating a healthier and more comfortable living environment for the students and faculty who will live there.
Handel began the lecture by admitting to "the nagging, unanswered questions raised in study at Cornell that you can't stop thinking about after you graduate."
"In studio we learned that architecture was part of the grand sweep of history, but how, and what part — is it a reflection of forces in play at the time, or an actor shaped by the participants?"
"Burdened and blessed with the benefits of that education and those nagging questions, we began to see the city as something shaped by the actions of its inhabitants," Middelton added. "We began to see architecture as a noun and a verb." Their work in the Lincoln Square neighborhood of Manhattan, Boston's Combat Zone and San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center showed how "what had once been dead zones in pedestrian traffic now became lively and vital parts of the city."
The new Cornell Tech campus is an innovative project in mission, architecture, and planning, "combining the innovation of Silicon Valley with the economic power of Wall Street to create an economic engine to power New York City for the next century," Handel said. "That is a powerful and transformative concept."
Meeting the passive house code compliancy requirements was a challenge. The "big idea" was a thermal wrap for the entire building consisting of a high-performance envelope, windows with exceptional u-values, and reduced overall energy consumption while allowing for individual unit temperature control and metering.
"The university can have no higher mission than to show what can be done with off-the-shelf technology for sustainability," said Handel. "We are proud of Cornell for undertaking this and pleased with our role in the project."
As he announced the building's opening in August 2017, Middelton joked, "I'm still trying to figure out how to get the chimes from McGraw Tower on top of this building."
Jennifer Klein, assistant director for strategic capital partnerships at Cornell Tech overseeing the development of the new campus, added her perspective on the Passive House tower project: "This building will shine as an example of how Cornell Tech wants to act in the larger economy in New York City and other urban areas."
The annual Goldsmith lecture was established in memory of L. Michael Goldsmith by his family and friends in recognition of his passion for his education at Cornell, his career, and love of the profession of architecture.
"The annual lecture focuses on recent, significant, and extraordinary professional practice that is adding value to New York City," said Gensler Family Sesquicentennial Executive Director of AAP NYC Robert W. Balder (B.S. URS '89). "Handel Architects was invited this year not only for the importance of the Passive House project, but also for their connection to Cornell as alumni." Other Cornell alumni involved in the Tech Campus project are with Forest City Ratner Companies, Weiss/Manfredi, and Monadnock Construction.
By Patti Witten