Launch Slideshow

Slide Library, Columbia University

Marble Fairbanks' facility to house projection slides is a result of effective group design.

Slide Library, Columbia University

Marble Fairbanks' facility to house projection slides is a result of effective group design.

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    The process of manufacturing and assembling the east wall (at left) is highlighted by the adjacent wall panels (at right), which display the tooling paths for each MDF piece used in the east wall's fabrication.

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    A section of the east wall bows into the slide library to direct light from the room's skylight into the adjacent hallway.

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    Light from the surrounding hallways flows through the incised tooling paths on the north, south, and west walls, creating a luminescent quality when diffused by the linoleum surface laminated onto the MDF sheets.

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    The room houses thousands of drawers for storing projection slides and a table for researchers to examine and collect what they need.

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    MILLING PATH FOR WALL COMPONENTS In order to conserve materials and provide an exercise in efficient tooling at the fabrication lab, all of the MDF pieces for the east wall were arranged on sheets so that only 82 were used for the final product.

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    PERSPECTIVE VIEW A rendering shows the integration of the undulated east wall and the incised panels on the other three walls, as well as the path of natural light through the skylight (indicated with hatched lines).

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    The east wall's undulated form creates small openings where it is possible to look between the slide library and hallway.

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    East Wall Assembly Students from Columbia's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation assembled the east wall by threading each numbered piece of MDF and glass onto a series of supporting rods.

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    Threaded Rod System for East Wall Assembly The threaded rod system consists of 18-inch-long threaded rods connected with threaded couplings. Top and bottom tracks keep the pieces in place, and compression from the rods keeps the glass sheets in place with no adhesive.

One of Columbia University's newest facilities has a very specialized purpose: the storage and conservation of projection slides, a staple of art history and archaeology instruction. In this project, architects Marble Fairbanks created an enclosure for thousands of slide file drawers dominated by an undulating east wall of milled MDF panels and ½-inchthick glass, stacked vertically and threaded onto a series of supporting rods. The MDF panels were CNC milled in an on-campus workshop and are meticulously shaped so that the profiles combine to form a sinuous wall surface. At intervals, two sheets of glass are placed between the MDF panels on the threaded support system. This allows for light to shine through the width of the glass, adding visual texture. The other three walls are made up of MDF panels laminated with sheet linoleum and inscribed with the tooling paths of pieces in the east wall.

The jury found the process of designing and fabricating the project even more interesting than the end result. The process was organized to foster alliances between several university departments and teams of students. A new fabrication lab on campus has a mandate to explore innovative fabrication and assembly techniques at full scale. This group joined forces with the facilities department, students from the school of architecture, and the clients from the art history and archaeology department to create a laboratory environment that utilized the strengths of the university community to create a project that will serve it.

“It's understanding that the campus has its own kind of ecosystem of decision-making. That's seldom ever captured,” Chris Genik said. “This kind of effort should be commended because it's unusual.” The other jury members agreed: “It's made in the university by the university,” Andres Lepik said. “It's bringing forces together and creating this idea of working together in different faculties.”

PROJECT Expanded Alliances, Slide Library, Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University, New York

CLIENT Department of Design and Construction, Columbia University; Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University

ARCHITECT Marble Fairbanks, New York—Scott Marble, Karen Fairbanks (partners); Jake Nishimura (project architect); Eric Ng, Katie Shima (design team)

COLLABORATORS Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University, New York—Avery Digital Fabrication Lab: David Benjamin (project manager); Cory Clarke, Phil Anzalone (co-directors); Ian Weiss, Darren Zhou, Jamison Guest, Katie Mearns, Taka Sarui, Soo-in Yang, Amy Yang (fabrication team); Mark Taylor, Paul Miller, Taka Sarui, Alexandra Distler, Chyanne Husar, Sabri Farouki, Chris Kanipe, Jamison Guest, Armando Ortiz (assembly team)

LIGHTING DESIGNER Rick Shaver Architectural Lighting

STRUCTURAL ENGINEER Norfast Consulting Group

MECHANICAL ENGINEER Charles G. Michel Engineering PC

GENERAL CONTRACTOR Ideal Interiors

OFF-SITE FABRICATORS Bjork Carle Woodworking, Stainless Metals Inc., Kangoo Products

SIZE 1,000 square feet


  • Karen Fairbanks
    Karen Fairbanks
  • Scott Marble
    Scott Marble

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