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Having just won final approval from Ithaca’s Planning and Development Board, OMA-designed Milstein Hall, the planned expansion of Cornell’s College of Art, Architecture, and Planning (AAP), has hit another roadblock, along with most other construction projects on campus. Due to university-wide financial constraints, President David Skorton has put all university building projects under review. In this context, a group of professors and alumni have called for Milstein to be shelved, while AAP faculty, students, and alumni are lobbying for its survival. Meanwhile, the school is facing a deadline from the National Architectural Accreditation Board (NAAB) to upgrade its facilities.
“We’re not calling it a freeze. Most projects on campus are being evaluated, including Milstein,” said Tommy Bruce, vice-president for university communications. “Projects must meet two criteria. They must be essential to the mission of the university, and they must have all funds aligned.” Deans and department heads have been asked to submit detailed reports demonstrating how each project meets these criteria. Decisions are expected at the beginning of April.
In a January 30 letter to The Cornell Daily Sun, 25 faculty members and alumni questioned the project, given the estimated 27 percent decline in the university’s endowment. “The financial crisis faced by our university renders the extraordinary expense of the chosen design (circa $60 million, before it has even gone to bid) very difficult to justify,” they wrote. “The extravagant expense of Milstein threatens more pressing financial needs for core functions of research and teaching, contributes to a greater financial burden on students and their families from projected tuition increases, and threatens more employee layoffs.” In addition to the cost of the project, the letter questioned its aesthetics and sustainability, as well as its high-profile design team.
On February 11, one of the signatories of the letter introduced a resolution to include Milstein in the university-wide “construction pause.” The resolution was struck down, as the administration already considered the project on hold.
AAP students and faculty, however, defended the necessity for the project’s going forward. Dean Kent Kleinman argued that the project is essential for the school to maintain its accreditation. A spokesperson for NAAB confirmed the dean’s claim. “We have not gotten a satisfactory response from them in regards to their facilities, to date,” said Cassandra Pair, an accreditation manager at NAAB. “This is something we can no longer ignore.”
Though the project appears to meet Bruce’s criteria of being “essential to the mission” of the school, the second measure, having “all funds aligned,” is more complicated. Dean Kleinman, who declined to be interviewed for this article due to the pending decision, estimated the project will cost $52 million, and told The Cornell Chronicle that AAP has raised nearly $30 million for the project and plans to borrow $12 million more, leaving the university to pick up the remaining $10 million (or $18 million, depending on which total cost estimate is used).
OMA is reticent about the situation. “All we can do is explain our intentions,” said Shohei Shigematsu, director of OMA’s New York office. Still, they acknowledge the present climate is difficult for their design. “Every project begins in a particular moment. If we started the project today, the design would turn out differently,” he said. “It’s an issue of bad timing, but the issue is not as black-and-white as some people seem to think.”
Seat at the Table
UW-Milwaukee elects new urban planning and architecture chairs
“The project aims to provide potential employees with a robust tool for gaining a sense of which firms will treat them fairly, with respect, and support their development as architects, while giving certified JustDesign firms an edge in attracting the best possible designers.”Planning to release its inaugural list in December of this year, the organization will deploy its operation in two phases; first, solicit nominations online from employees themselves, then certify that the nominated firms comply with “best labor practices.” The initial employee nominations will survey issues such as "labor conditions pertaining to flexibility, agency, fair pay, salary transparency, employee diversity, and family-friendly policies." While the website and its associated documents are light on the specific methodologies to be employed in phase two of the process, or indeed who will be evaluating the firms, the ambition of this program is to cultivate a field that is symbiotically beneficial to workers and employers alike. JustDesign.Us is endorsed by a handful of groups, mostly academic in nature, however has not yet recruited professional organizations such as The American Institute of Architects and The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards. The nomination process is not meant to be punitive and will only review positive employee questionnaires, celebrating firms that excel in fair treatment of their employees not shaming companies that underperform in this regard. Nominations for the first round of review are due by July 15.
Prairie House Rules
Frank Lloyd Wright School works towards independence from Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation
The Scottsdale, Arizona–based Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture is currently working toward achieving independence from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation to maintain its accreditation as an institution of higher learning.
Architecture schools are required to be accredited by both the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), usually as part of a larger university, and the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). The HLC is responsible for overseeing overall standards of degree-issuing institutions in 19 states, while NAAB is only concerned with architecture schools. In 2010, the HLC updated its bylaws forcing all institutions of higher learning to be separate from any other larger institution, which does not have education as its primary mission. The Frank Lloyd Wright School is a division of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, meaning the school is not in line with the HLC’s current policies.
In a recent decision by the HLC, the school’s application for “Change of Control, Structure, or Organization,” a requirement for its continued accreditation, was denied. Working closely with the school, the HLC has asked for an updated application by November 30, which will be reviewed at its February board meeting.
“The response from HLC was never a matter of a disagreement with what was previously submitted. In consultation with their staff, we now understand the areas where they would like to see us flesh out our previous submission,” remarked Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation president and CEO Stuart Graff in a statement to the press. Graff and school dean Aaron Betsky have met with the HLC in order to understand the commission’s concerns and recommendations for their upcoming application. Both Betsky and Graff are confident the school is on the path to accreditation as an independent institution.
It is important to note that the school has not lost its accreditation, which is good through 2017, but it must prove that it is independent before that accreditation expires. The HLC’s criterion for accreditation dictates that “the governing board of the institution is sufficiently autonomous” and “the institution’s resource base supports its current educational programs.” This separation from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation greatly affects the school’s funding, much of which has come from the Foundation. In 2015 the school successfully raised $2 million dollars in order to become financially independent.
The school has been an accredited institution of higher learning since 1987, and first became accredited as an architecture school in 1996. The school’s NAAB accreditation is good through 2023. The Frank Lloyd Wright School offers a three-year Master of Architecture degree, which students pursue while splitting the year between the school’s Scottsdale, Arizona, and Spring Green, Wisconsin, campuses.
- 6,000 hours (approximately three years) of post-licensure experience in the home country.
- Validation of licensure in good standing from the home authority.
- Citizenship or lawful permanent residence in the home country.
- Licensure in the home country not gained through foreign reciprocity.