Category: Institutional
Location: Ithaca, NY
Size: 47,000 sq. ft.
Masonry Used: Marmara Marble: 3,300 sq. ft. mined from Turkey, cut and polished in Italy, and coordinated through Hawaii.
Submitted by: Welliver

Project Description

Until this year, the College of Architecture, Art and Planning (AAP) at Cornell University was housed in four separate buildings, distinct in architectural style and programmatic use. Rather than creating a new, free-standing building for much-needed studios, auditorium, gallery and critique spaces, Milstein Hall physically unites the AAP’s longseparated facilities to solve these challenges, forming a platform for interdisciplinary collaboration. Enveloped in an energy-efficient glass and Turkish marble facade, Milstein Hall is a 47,000 square-foot building that features unique usage of masonry, materials and space.

The building, which broke ground in 2009, hosts two stories with a sub-basement. Both floors, referred to as the upper and lower plates, have an open-air design to allow for ever-changing spacial and programming requirements. The lower plate boasts distinctive auditorium and boardroom functions. A major focal point is an internal, concrete dome in the center of the lower plate, which showcases elevated auditorium seating and a molded concrete bridge and staircase to the second floor. The large horizontal plate lifts off the ground and connects to the second levels of the AAP’s Sibley and Rand Halls, providing 25,000 square-feet of studio space with panoramic views of the surrounding environment.

The continuous twelve-foot-high band of glass facade brings abundant natural light to the studio space and makes the long hours of activity transparent to the public. Above and below the glass, two simple horizontal bands of Turkish Marmara marble, selected for its strong visual appearance, define the extents of the upper plate. The naturally occurring vertical bands of grey and white enrich the exterior with a specific scale and material that is unique and yet unites the different buildings in this area of campus.

The vertical marble veining was significant in achieving the continuous bands above and below the glass to emphasize the cantilevers and floating nature of the upper plate. The facade design was developed so the marble bands were one panel high and the vertical bands between adjacent panels disappeared to create the appearance of one continuous piece of marble. The project team spent months blending the different pieces of marble to overcome the natural, irregular variegations and downplay joint visibility.

On the south cantilever, the uniqueness of the naturally-striated marble directly influenced the design of the custom Milstein Hall building ID, which is engraved directly into the lower fascia panels in vertical bands that appear to dissolve into the stone, yet reveal themselves as a distinct barcode of lettering.

The use of the Marmara marble is consistent with the desire to use natural materials and colors throughout the building and enabled the architects to achieve multiple design objectives that could not have been accomplished with other natural stones. The installation of this custom material was not without its challenges. Since this type of marble had never been used in the Upstate New York state climate, extensive testing was required. A 6-month test period was performed, in which porosity testing, density testing, freeze-thaw cycling, anchorage load-testing, and post-freeze thaw anchorage pull-testing was conducted.

Project Participants

Owner: Cornell University

  • Architect/Desinger: Shohei Shigematsu, OMA
  • Structural Engineer: Laura Smith, Robert Silman Associates
  • Construction Manager: Jason Edsall, Welliver
  • Construction Architect: Jim Bash, Kendall Heaton Associates
  • Masonry Contractor: Duane Vorhis, Welliver
  • Masonry Supplier: James Totaro, James J Totaro & Associates
  • Masonry Distributor: Matteo Zanaglia, Zanaglia Group
  • Facade Design and Engineering Consultantr: Front, Inc.
  • Graphic Design and Signage: 2x4 Inc.