Thursday, February 12, 2009

Help Save Cornell's Milstein Hall by OMA

Help Save Cornell School of Architecture....Don't Let Rem Lose Two Projects in One Week

Cornell School of Architecture is teetering on the edge of yet again delaying a new architecture building (designed by OMA). This would be the third attempt they've backed away from; they've already fired Steven Holl and
Barkow Leibinger who were involved in earlier iterations. The complaints about the current project are that it is only targeting LEED certification rather than LEED Gold and that it fails to properly integrate into the historic fabric of the campus. Also there are budget concerns. Of greater concern to Columbia's School of Architecture, however is the fact that NCARB is threatening to pull their accreditation for both their BArch and Masters programs if they fail to update their facilities.

Della Hansmann

Following Text from Archinect's Article

Hi -- we've just learned that a few members of the University, supported by a few alumni and who knows whom, have made a motion to the faculty senate to stop Milstein Hall. This, after we just received the final approval for proceeding with construction.

These faculty members cite concern over the university's budget, the fact that the design so far is not a gold Leeds rating, and (the real reason for some of these folks, who have been fighting us every step of the way), the design. Against the latter, they cite Sage & Lincoln hall as exemplars of 'context-sensitive' design. (You might recall the corporate, pseudo-gothic-victorian pastiche that served as additions to the business and music schools).

n their vocal publicity efforts, the faculty group and their few supporters are giving the university and Ithaca community the impression that this is the opinion of many of our alumni. Having broadcast their views to various media outlets, and now to the full faculty senate, they want the University to stop the building, and for Arch. go back to the dwg boards to create a cheaper, more 'contextual' design.

Even before debating the uninformed opinions noted above, I should point out what any delay at this point would mean. THe NAAB has warned us for over a decade, and have explicitly stated that the last accreditation we got is the FINAL one they will grant without compliant facilities. They have just denied us an accreditation review for our new M.Arch 1 program this spring because of delays to the final approval process. When they return next year, they plan to review both the M1 and B.Arch programs -- if we don't have a building in process at that point, the B.Arch will LOSE its accreditation, and the M1 will be denied the same.

As you can imagine, losing accreditation will be catastrophic. Enrollment will decline precipitously, students will transfer out, operating budgets will decline in turn, and our hard-won reputation will be tarnished irreparably. Very few schools sink to this depth, and no one will stop to ask the reasons for us osing accreditation. The word on the street will be that something is very wrong at Cornell. Our hard-won efforts in the new grad programs will be crushed -- it took us 4 years to build the M1 program to #4 standing against wealthier and long-established Ivy-peers. Imagine how long it would take to disperse the stigma of failure.

If you disagree with the opinions stated above -- and with the representation of Architecture alumni opinions -- please help us make countering views known. The well-being, if not survival, of our design programs depends on quick and vociferous response (the Senate meeting is scheduled for this Wed.).

To help, please do 1 of the following as soon as possible:

1. Send a letter to the editor of local media outlets.
- Cornell Daily Sun:
- Cornell Chronicle:
- Ithaca Journal:
- Ithaca Times:
- News10 Now:

2. Post your online comments to articles already written. Go to the article and add your comments where indicated at the end of the page.
-Cornell Daily Sun:
- Ithaca Journal:

I've attached a letter by some of our colleagues in AAP and on campus protesting Milstein Hall to the Cornell Sun. I've also attached 2 responses, one by an Arch. grad student (draft form), another by a Cornell prof on campus (copied below). Zachary's letter offers a good, brief rebuttal for the budget and Leeds arguments by Architecture's opponents. Your letter need not be long & time-consuming -- Adrian Lewis's letter below is just a couple of paragraphs.

Please forward this message to others you think may want to contribute. We urgently need your help, and the more response the better.


Sent to the Cornell Daily Sun - Sunday

Dear Editor,

A group of Cornell professors and other members of the University have expressed vigorous opposition to the forthcoming construction of Milstein Hall, an addition for Cornell's Architecture program. Plans for the hall were presented in public two years ago by the architect, Rem Koolhaas. The group's opinion appeared in a February 6 letter to the Cornell Daily Sun, and in a motion to be debated by Faculty Senate on February 11.

I was surprised by the group's opinion, and disappointed. Despite the challenging financial environment, President Skorton has commendably deemed the Milstein project critical to the University. The group, by contrast, while engaged and well-meaning in its worries, is prosaic in its thinking. I find this failure of imagination distressing in a great and dynamic university.

Cornell is proud to host the top-ranked undergraduate architecture program in the US. The program has suffered in grossly inadequate facilities for decades, and as a direct consequence has been at constant risk of losing its professional accreditation. It is surely self-evident that, to a greater degree than any other University project, this desperately-needed architectural work needs to do more, intellectually, than simply "house" Architecture. Koolhaas is among the world's most brilliant and respected architects; the design he unveiled is effective, cost-conscious, and bold.

The group finds the Milstein design "provocative and setting-discordant", "atavistic", and a "flamboyant individual statement". They hope for a building "respectful of... historical setting". I do not. The books I read, the music to which I listen, the art I admire, none of these are "respectful of historical setting". Should students at a great university learn to think for themselves in a mundane neo-gothic pastiche? I urge the group to think again.


Adrian Lewis
Operations Research and Information Engineering

Thanks for the heads up Della...

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