Launch Slideshow

Diana Center at Barnard College

Diana Center

Diana Center

  • Diana Center at Barnard College

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    Diana Center at Barnard College

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    Albert Vecerka/Esto

    Diana Center at Barnard College

  • The east façade of the new Diana Center stretches along Broadway and gives Barnard the street presence that it has been lacking for nearly 40 years. The façade incorporates terra-cotta-colored glass shadow boxes, panels with a graduated vertical frit, and panels of vision glass, giving an indication of the programs happening within: classrooms, offices, a black-box theater, and event space. But it is the series of four slipped atria (containing a café, a dining hall, a reading room, and a gallery) that are the buildings defining gesture. Its a really transformative building for the campus, says Barnard College president Debora Spar. Our challenge now is to bring the rest of campus up the level of the Diana [Center].

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    The east façade of the new Diana Center stretches along Broadway and gives Barnard the street presence that it has been lacking for nearly 40 years. The façade incorporates terra-cotta-colored glass shadow boxes, panels with a graduated vertical frit, and panels of vision glass, giving an indication of the programs happening within: classrooms, offices, a black-box theater, and event space. But it is the series of four slipped atria (containing a café, a dining hall, a reading room, and a gallery) that are the buildings defining gesture. Its a really transformative building for the campus, says Barnard College president Debora Spar. Our challenge now is to bring the rest of campus up the level of the Diana [Center].

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    Albert Vecerka/Esto

    The east façade of the new Diana Center stretches along Broadway and gives Barnard the street presence that it has been lacking for nearly 40 years. The façade incorporates terra-cotta-colored glass shadow boxes, panels with a graduated vertical frit, and panels of vision glass, giving an indication of the programs happening within: classrooms, offices, a black-box theater, and event space. But it is the series of four slipped atria (containing a café, a dining hall, a reading room, and a gallery) that are the building's defining gesture. "It's a really transformative building for the campus," says Barnard College president Debora Spar. "Our challenge now is to bring the rest of campus up the level of the Diana [Center]."

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    Courtesy Weiss/Manfredi

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    Courtesy Weiss/Manfredi

  • Projecting from the buildings west façade is an articulated volume that is mostly filled with, of all things, a fire stair. A way to add dynamic circulation, the clear vision panels showcase students walking though the corridors. The topmost level of the stair volume houses a lecture room and hides HVAC vents above. The terraced green space can be used for everything from informal gatherings to outdoor performances. The sloping levels were designed to create a smooth transition down to the historic Milbank Hall (Barnards oldest campus building), which was cut off from the rest of campus when a massive concrete plinth was installed in the 1960s. The restored circulation and sight lines create a more unified campus environment.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp1341%2Etmp_tcm20-396951.jpg

    Projecting from the buildings west façade is an articulated volume that is mostly filled with, of all things, a fire stair. A way to add dynamic circulation, the clear vision panels showcase students walking though the corridors. The topmost level of the stair volume houses a lecture room and hides HVAC vents above. The terraced green space can be used for everything from informal gatherings to outdoor performances. The sloping levels were designed to create a smooth transition down to the historic Milbank Hall (Barnards oldest campus building), which was cut off from the rest of campus when a massive concrete plinth was installed in the 1960s. The restored circulation and sight lines create a more unified campus environment.

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    Albert Vecerka/Esto

    Projecting from the building's west façade is an articulated volume that is mostly filled with, of all things, a fire stair. A way to add dynamic circulation, the clear vision panels showcase students walking though the corridors. The topmost level of the stair volume houses a lecture room and hides HVAC vents above. The terraced green space can be used for everything from informal gatherings to outdoor performances. The sloping levels were designed to create a smooth transition down to the historic Milbank Hall (Barnard's oldest campus building), which was cut off from the rest of campus when a massive concrete plinth was installed in the 1960s. The restored circulation and sight lines create a more unified campus environment.

  • On the buildings southwest corner, a projecting volume houses a studio space for senior architecture students. Clad in clear vision glass, the room stands out from the rest of the copper-toned façade. Before getting to work in the building, the students had a chance to influence its design. The color of the building is something we spent a huge amount of time on. We must have gone through hundreds of options, vice president for administration Lisa Gamsu says. We took full-scale mock-ups and hung them on the lawn and students voted. It was a fun process.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp1347%2Etmp_tcm20-397005.jpg

    On the buildings southwest corner, a projecting volume houses a studio space for senior architecture students. Clad in clear vision glass, the room stands out from the rest of the copper-toned façade. Before getting to work in the building, the students had a chance to influence its design. The color of the building is something we spent a huge amount of time on. We must have gone through hundreds of options, vice president for administration Lisa Gamsu says. We took full-scale mock-ups and hung them on the lawn and students voted. It was a fun process.

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    Paul Warchol

    On the building's southwest corner, a projecting volume houses a studio space for senior architecture students. Clad in clear vision glass, the room stands out from the rest of the copper-toned façade. Before getting to work in the building, the students had a chance to influence its design. "The color of the building is something we spent a huge amount of time on. We must have gone through hundreds of options," vice president for administration Lisa Gamsu says. "We took full-scale mock-ups and hung them on the lawn and students voted. It was a fun process."

  • On the west side of the building, the projecting fire stair is clad in clear vision glass through which student activity can be seen, creating a dynamic façade. Certain spaceslike the open area in front of the buildings elevator, seen here above the entry doorshave been claimed by students as informal study lounges. Furniture was brought in to accommodate them. The students are in the building 24 hours, Spar says, and theyve made it their own. At the time of the buildings soft opening in fall 2009, much of the break out furniture had intentionally not been ordered. Since most of it was designed by Weiss/Manfredi, the goal was to see how the pieces were used in different spaces, so that the fabrication of the pieces could meet specific needs.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp1345%2Etmp_tcm20-396987.jpg

    On the west side of the building, the projecting fire stair is clad in clear vision glass through which student activity can be seen, creating a dynamic façade. Certain spaceslike the open area in front of the buildings elevator, seen here above the entry doorshave been claimed by students as informal study lounges. Furniture was brought in to accommodate them. The students are in the building 24 hours, Spar says, and theyve made it their own. At the time of the buildings soft opening in fall 2009, much of the break out furniture had intentionally not been ordered. Since most of it was designed by Weiss/Manfredi, the goal was to see how the pieces were used in different spaces, so that the fabrication of the pieces could meet specific needs.

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    Albert Vecerka/Esto

    On the west side of the building, the projecting fire stair is clad in clear vision glass through which student activity can be seen, creating a dynamic façade. Certain spaces—like the open area in front of the buildings elevator, seen here above the entry doors—have been claimed by students as informal study lounges. Furniture was brought in to accommodate them. "The students are in the building 24 hours," Spar says, "and they've made it their own." At the time of the building's soft opening in fall 2009, much of the break out furniture had intentionally not been ordered. Since most of it was designed by Weiss/Manfredi, the goal was to see how the pieces were used in different spaces, so that the fabrication of the pieces could meet specific needs.

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    Courtesy Weiss/Manfredi

  • The ramps and switchbacks in the fire-stair volume create not only the buildings primary circulation, but also an intentionally choreographed sequence of student and faculty interaction. Separated from the inner volume of the building by fire-rated glass, the projecting volume meets all codes for fire egress, and gives students, who spend the bulk of their time indoors, a chance to connect to the rest of campus.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp1346%2Etmp_tcm20-396996.jpg

    The ramps and switchbacks in the fire-stair volume create not only the buildings primary circulation, but also an intentionally choreographed sequence of student and faculty interaction. Separated from the inner volume of the building by fire-rated glass, the projecting volume meets all codes for fire egress, and gives students, who spend the bulk of their time indoors, a chance to connect to the rest of campus.

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    Albert Vecerka/Esto

    The ramps and switchbacks in the fire-stair volume create not only the building's primary circulation, but also an intentionally choreographed sequence of student and faculty interaction. Separated from the inner volume of the building by fire-rated glass, the projecting volume meets all codes for fire egress, and gives students, who spend the bulk of their time indoors, a chance to connect to the rest of campus.

  • The double-height event oval is tucked into a lower level of the Diana Center. Available for everything from group yoga classes to alumnae events, it was an integral part of the program from the very beginning. Acoustical material is hidden behind bent wood panels and revealed by milled slats that mimic the pattern of the graduated frit on the curtain wall. For events that fill the space beyond capacity, the rest of the building is equipped with closed-circuit televisions.

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    The double-height event oval is tucked into a lower level of the Diana Center. Available for everything from group yoga classes to alumnae events, it was an integral part of the program from the very beginning. Acoustical material is hidden behind bent wood panels and revealed by milled slats that mimic the pattern of the graduated frit on the curtain wall. For events that fill the space beyond capacity, the rest of the building is equipped with closed-circuit televisions.

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    Paul Warchol

    The double-height event oval is tucked into a lower level of the Diana Center. Available for everything from group yoga classes to alumnae events, it was an integral part of the program from the very beginning. Acoustical material is hidden behind bent wood panels and revealed by milled slats that mimic the pattern of the graduated frit on the curtain wall. For events that fill the space beyond capacity, the rest of the building is equipped with closed-circuit televisions.

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    Courtesy Weiss/Manfredi

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    Courtesy Weiss/Manfredi

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    Courtesy Weiss/Manfredi

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    Courtesy Weiss/Manfredi

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    Courtesy Weiss/Manfredi

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    Courtesy Weiss/Manfredi

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    Courtesy Weiss/Manfredi

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    Courtesy Weiss/Manfredi

  • From the café in the southeast corner of the ground floor, students can see up through the slipped atria to a more formal dining area, a reading room, and finally into an art gallery on the fourth floor. The architects branded this series of spaces with tones of red and orange, similar to the tones used in the façade. Much of the furniture was custom designed, including the resin tabletops, which were a collaboration with 3form. The café has computer workstations tucked against the west wall; a fritted glass wall encloses the faculty dining room on the second floor, which looks down into the café space.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp1340%2Etmp_tcm20-396942.jpg

    From the café in the southeast corner of the ground floor, students can see up through the slipped atria to a more formal dining area, a reading room, and finally into an art gallery on the fourth floor. The architects branded this series of spaces with tones of red and orange, similar to the tones used in the façade. Much of the furniture was custom designed, including the resin tabletops, which were a collaboration with 3form. The café has computer workstations tucked against the west wall; a fritted glass wall encloses the faculty dining room on the second floor, which looks down into the café space.

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    Albert Vecerka/Esto

    From the café in the southeast corner of the ground floor, students can see up through the slipped atria to a more formal dining area, a reading room, and finally into an art gallery on the fourth floor. The architects branded this series of spaces with tones of red and orange, similar to the tones used in the façade. Much of the furniture was custom designed, including the resin tabletops, which were a collaboration with 3form. The café has computer workstations tucked against the west wall; a fritted glass wall encloses the faculty dining room on the second floor, which looks down into the café space.

  • In the third-floor reading room, custom-designed, serpentine rows of carrels, as well as nooks tucked into the west wall, allow for private study. The architects custom-designed the carpet with Bentley Prince Street, and it transitions from deep red tones on the first floor toward oranges and yellows in each ascending atrium. The reading room overlooks the more formal dining area, which doubles as a study lounge in off-hours: Once the dining service closes, that room stays full, says Gamsu. Even thought its a double-height space, the proportions feel just right. The visual stimulus is just wonderful, but its quiet and peaceful.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp1349%2Etmp_tcm20-397024.jpg

    In the third-floor reading room, custom-designed, serpentine rows of carrels, as well as nooks tucked into the west wall, allow for private study. The architects custom-designed the carpet with Bentley Prince Street, and it transitions from deep red tones on the first floor toward oranges and yellows in each ascending atrium. The reading room overlooks the more formal dining area, which doubles as a study lounge in off-hours: Once the dining service closes, that room stays full, says Gamsu. Even thought its a double-height space, the proportions feel just right. The visual stimulus is just wonderful, but its quiet and peaceful.

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    Paul Warchol

    In the third-floor reading room, custom-designed, serpentine rows of carrels, as well as nooks tucked into the west wall, allow for private study. The architects custom-designed the carpet with Bentley Prince Street, and it transitions from deep red tones on the first floor toward oranges and yellows in each ascending atrium. The reading room overlooks the more formal dining area, which doubles as a study lounge in off-hours: "Once the dining service closes, that room stays full," says Gamsu. "Even though it's a double-height space, the proportions feel just right. The visual stimulus is just wonderful, but it's quiet and peaceful."

Sometimes, architectural complexity comes in a simple form, even a box. The Diana Center, designed by New York–based Weiss/Manfredi for Barnard College, looks simple: a five-story glass prism served straight-up. Its terra-cotta color matches the largely brick Barnard and Columbia University campuses, which face each other across Broadway.

A closer reading, however, reveals a narrative of complexity. The façade is paneled in glass, but not in a display of transparency for transparency’s sake: Some panels have a graduated frit; others are shadow boxes, with space between a translucent glass outer layer and a second opaque inner layer. The functions inside the building establish whether the panels will be opaque, transparent, or something in between. A swath of transparent glass rises diagonally up the Broadway façade, revealing a stepped, four-story atrium full of activity.

In 2003, the architects won an invited competition to design the building as a student center, with classrooms and studios devoted to art, art history, architecture, and theater. The college wanted a mixed-use building whose circulation and adjacencies would help catalyze interaction between students, faculty, and the various disciplines.

The architects—the firm’s full name is Weiss/Manfredi Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism—acted as their own consultants, applying their several disciplines simultaneously. They developed the site, landscape, and plans together as an integrated and complex whole.

The former building on the site, the McIntosh Center, was built in 1969, when institutions that were then allergic to the city walled themselves off self-protectively. The fortresslike building even divided the campus, with a front plaza and a daunting flight of stairs higher than Milbank Hall—the oldest structure on campus—next door.

Weiss/Manfredi’s design was urbanistically corrective. The glass façade, which meets the street, invites the urban gaze into the building. A front door along Broadway serves a café, as well as a black-box theater and an elegant, wood-paneled event oval, both on basement levels.

On the campus side of the building, the architects struck a sight line from the entrance of Milbank Hall across Lehman Lawn to the campus’ famous wrought-iron gate, resulting in a wedge-shaped plaza that sliced the seven-story prism into a wedge. The architects landscaped the plaza into grassed terraces stepping down gently from the lawn to the Milbank courtyard. They also invited the landscape up into the building: A terrace adjoining the lawn leads into the café, and then up the open tiers to the second-floor dining room, third-floor reading room, and fourth-floor gallery. The terraced spaces are all transparent to each other, and to views from the lawn. The building remains public all the way to the grassed roof (the architects are targeting LEED Silver certification).

The landscape and building are both sectional ladders of student life. The façades are always occupied. “The students own the building,” design partner Marion Weiss says.

The building that shifts vertically in section also shifts horizontally: Nowhere is the plan simply extruded. A wandering, glass-enclosed fire stair steps up the west façade, meandering in and out of the building’s floor plate, and the rooms expand and contract throughout the building according to programmatic necessity.

The architects have created a gesammtkunstwerk, a design addressing urbanism, architecture, landscape, and social life. And that design addresses both the big picture and the small: The hazy quality of the shadow box façade panels is echoed in translucent resin tabletops.

The building’s character is both urban and urbane. The scale is generous, and the sequence of spaces both civilized in its processional quality, and experiential in the way it unfolds. Above all, the building that replaced McIntosh Center did not do so by reiterating what design partner Michael A. Manfredi calls “the clichés of historicism—cornice lines, brick, trim.” The architects looked forward rather than back, and so set the best possible example for students exploring their own creativity.


Project Credits
Project The Diana Center, New York
Client/Owner Barnard College—Lisa Gamsu (vice president for administration/project manager)
Owner’s Representatives Roland L. Ferrera and Patrick Muldoon
Architect and Interior Designer Weiss/Manfredi Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism, New York—Marion Weiss and Michael A. Manfredi (design partners); Mike Harshman (project manager); Clifton Balch, Kim Nun and Yehre Suh (project architects); Michael Blasberg, Beth Eckels, Hamilton Hadden, Patrick Hazari, Todd Hoehn, Bryan Kelley, Justin Kwok, Lee Lim, Nick Shipes, Michael Steiner (design team); Patrick Armacost, Kian Goh, Jason Ro, Yehre Suh, and Tae-Young Yoon (predesign team)
M/E/P/FP/Vertical Transportation Engineering Consultant Jaros, Baum & Bolles
Structural Engineer Severud Associates
Civil Engineer Langan Engineering and Environmental Services
Construction Manager/General Contractor Bovis Lend Lease
Landscape Architecture Consultants HM White SA
Lighting Designer Brandston Partnership
Curtain Wall Consultant R.A. Heintges Architects Consultants
AV/IT/General Acoustics/Security Consultants Cerami & Associates with TM Technology Partners
Food Service Consultant Ricca Newmark Design
Retail Consultant Jeanne Giordano
Cost Estimator AMIS
Sustainability Consultant Viridian Energy & Environmental
Theatre Consultant Fisher Dachs Associates
Theatre Acoustic Consultant Jaff eHolden Acoustics
Size 98,000 square feet
Construction Cost $57 million

Materials & Sources
Carpet: Bentley Prince Street bentleyprincestreet.com
Exterior Wall Systems: Architectural Glazing Technologies archsky.com, Enterprise Architectural Sales enterprisearchitectural.com
Fabrics: Maharam maharam.com, Designtex designtex.com, Unika Vaev unikavaev.com
Glass: Oldcastle (Interior) oldcastleglass.com; Goldray (Exterior) goldrayindustries.com
Lighting Controls: Lutron Electronics lutron.com
Site and Landscape Products: Dubner stevendubnerlandscaping.com