Thom Mayne, FAIA, ponders how he can connect Roosevelt Island to the rest of New York City. Maybe a building that doubles as a bridge, he says.
In New York Magazine, Justin Davidson reports that Cornell University chose Mayne and his Los-Angeles based firm Morphosis to design the anchor building for the university’s new engineering and applied-science campus, which is being built on the remote Roosevelt Island. Davidson says that Mayne understands the challenges he faces in trying to connect the isolated campus to the bustling city center.
“’You could sling a piece across the river on one side toward Manhattan, and it would open all kinds of fantastic possibilities for linkages,’” Mayne says in the article. Davidson adds that even if that idea never comes to fruition, it’s the kind of forward thinking that Cornell needs to ensure that the technology campus becomes a thriving outpost.
When Stanford University unexpectedly dropped out of the competition to build a new technology campus in the city, the stakes were raised that much more for Cornell. By selecting Mayne and his firm to design the main building, Cornell is proving that its “architectural ambitions match its technological ones,” Davidson says.
Mayne is accustomed to designing for those in the ivory tower: There's his costly signature building for Cooper Union, the astrophysics building for Cal Tech, a student recreation center for the University of Cincinnati, to name a few.
But the ivory-tower stereotype is exactly what he’s looking to avoid this time around, Robin Pogrebin says in The New York Times. “Mr. Mayne said the Cornell project presented an opportunity to contemplate what an academic building should look like in the information age,” she writes.
The building, along with the rest of the campus, will be completed by the start of the 2017 academic year. Designed to bridge academics with private-sector research and development, the industrialized island might just give Silicon Valley a run for its money.