Milstein Hall approval greeted with elation, relief by AAP faculty, students, alumni

May 25, 2009

Paul Milstein Hall will be built. Kent Kleinman, the Gale and Ira Drukier Dean of Architecture, Art, and Planning, announced the Cornell Board of Trustees' decision to move forward with the project to AAP's Class of 2009 at the conclusion of commencement ceremonies today (May 24) on the Arts Quad.

"This concerns all the faculty, all the staff, and all of the students -- especially the architecture students," Kleinman said. "I know you have been deeply concerned about the status of your accreditation and deeply concerned about the status of Milstein Hall. You've rallied behind the building. Yesterday, the trustees voted unanimously to go ahead with the project. We go into the ground this summer."

The announcement was met with applause, and Kleinman continued: "Here's the promise -- it will take 22 to 24 months. So in the fall of 2011, we're going to have a hell of a party, so you're invited. Please put it on your calendars."

Following the trustee vote on the project May 23, President David Skorton issued a statement saying the decision "caps a decade-long struggle to address inadequate facilities of the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning and preserve the pre-eminence of the nation's top undergraduate architecture program." (See link below for full statement.)

"This has been 10 years coming, or more," said Mark Cruvellier, who, as interim chair of the Department of Architecture for the past three years, saw the project mired in controversy and emerge from a lengthy approvals process. "So, finally, for this to be out of the starting blocks and happening means everything for this school. Not only in terms of accreditation but in terms of what we'll be able to do going forward," Cruvellier said.

Trustee Jill Lerner (B.Arch. '76), an architect with the firm of Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, said she was "elated" that Milstein is being built. "It's been a decade-long issue of trying to rectify and improve the facilities of AAP, and architecture specifically," she said.

"It's going to be a fabulous addition to campus and is going to change the culture at the north end of the Arts Quad," said Lerner, who also serves on the college's advisory council. "It will do for that end of the quad what Duffield did for the engineering college. I just can't wait. ... we have such a beautiful and wonderful campus, and it's very important we pay attention to preserving those qualities in any new building we do."

Milstein Hall will connect to Rand Hall and East Sibley Hall. The building is designed by Rem Koolhaas and his firm, the Office of Metropolitan Architecture. Koolhaas is the third architect to have a design for the project accepted since funding was announced by the Milstein family in 1999.

Milstein Hall will include a large auditorium/lecture hall, which the college still lacks; a seminar room and "a horizontal studio space that's very flexible," Lerner said. "It's going to be a very state-of-the art studio building, in terms of interdisciplinary work and being able to showcase a visual education. It's going to satisfy all the accreditation issues and be a wonderful building."

Zahira Suarez (B.Arch. '09) said that some of the issues for architecture students working in Rand Hall have been "accessibility, cleanliness, [not having] enough space to do design work, and limitations on every factor of our education."

Said Suarez, "I wish I had walked its halls -- it's very needed. I'm very excited, and it's about time."

Edited from a story by Dan Aloi in the Cornell Chronicle Online.

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