Ithaca on the East River


New buildings on Roosevelt Island will follow rigorous sustainability principles.
Courtesy Kilograph

The first three buildings and first phase of the landscape of the new Cornell NYCTech campus on Roosevelt Island, emphasizing collaboration across disciplines and sustainable design principles, were revealed at the end of December. Thom Mayne of Morphosis is designing the largest building, which will include classrooms, labs, and collaborative educational spaces. Weiss/Manfredi is designing a hybrid educational and commercial incubator building on the Queens facing side of the island. Handel Architects are designing a tower adjacent to the Queensboro Bridge for student and faculty housing.

Mayne’s trapezoidal building features a central core that aligns with 57th Street on the Manhattan Street grid. The residential and incubator buildings frame another view corridor out to Queens. A vast super structure supports a giant solar array, which will allow the building to produce as much energy as its occupants consume. “Aligning with Cornell Tech’s interdisciplinary academic mission, the design merges site planning, building planning, engineering, and architecture into an integrated and performative solution,” wrote Mayne in a statement. A ground floor café, accessible to the public, will help link the campus back to the more developed northern end of the island.


Weiss/Manfredi’s seven-story building, dubbed the “Corporate Co-Location Building,” will contain spaces for research and development projects for industry and the academy. It too features a large rooftop solar array and is aiming for net-zero energy use. Manfredi called the building “a flexible platform bringing industry and the academy together.”

The residential building is only in the schematic phase, but Handel emphasized that there will be apartments of all sizes, from large faculty apartments suited for families, to modest studios for students. The building is expected to house about 550 people. The project uses passive design principles with the goal of creating a carbon neutral facility.

A new park by Field Operations will connect the campus.

James Corner Field Operations will connect to the existing island esplanade and weave a series of intimate gathering areas with more open spaces. Strategies are being put in place to retain all stormwater onsite. Park space will total two and a half acres.

At the press unveiling, Mayne spoke about the need to improve connectivity to the island, possibly with a pedestrian and cyclist connection off the Queensboro Bridge or adding ferry service. While the island’s population and activity will go with these first three buildings, they are only the beginning. The full campus will eventually include five additional buildings, possibly for educational use or for private industry.

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