Barnard College has unveiled designs for a new library and academic center by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM). The Cheryl and Philip Milstein Teaching and Learning Center at Barnard's Morningside Heights campus will feature the "flexible learning spaces" that are pretty much de rigueur for any new academic building. The 128,000-square-foot, 11-story structure will be almost double the size of Lehman Hall, the building it is replacing. Barnard chose SOM to design The Milstein Center back in 2014, though the college waited until last week to reveal all the final renderings. SOM has envisioned a building with a five-story base and a comparatively narrow six-story top, a move that allows sunlight to flood the adjacent main lawn. In growing its footprint by 50 percent, The Milstein Center library program will almost double Lehman's seating while providing access to the outdoors on multiple terraces. Though there will be plenty of individual study spaces for students who prefer to hit the books in relative isolation, the library, in keeping with the times, will de-emphasize books in favor of multimedia labs and group study spaces. The core programming, which includes new offices and conference space, will be framed by a ground floor digital commons (Barnard is one of the only liberal arts colleges with a technology requirement) and a computational science center for teaching and research. The video below gives a snazzy introduction to The Milstein Center, which is slated to open in August 2018:
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Forget for a moment that President Obama bumped the New York Times’ Jill Abramson from the dais to deliver this year’s commencement address at Barnard and not his alma mater, Columbia College. Tonight, the Times’ architecture critic Michael Kimmelman will be delivering a lecture at Barnard's Diana Center, titled Public Space and Public Consciousness. However, a busy Kimmelman also appeared last night at GSAPP, for a conversation with Columbia Professor Gwendolyn Wright. Kimmelman addressed growing criticism of his focus on the city as a whole as opposed to addressing architecture as buildings, by reminding the audience that he’s only been at the gig for four months and still had plenty to address. He said he had hoped to create a more porous and fluid forum for debate about the city and architecture, through blogs and reader commentary—but that the resources to edit and filter comments at the newspaper are thin, and there was a concern that the blog could be “taken over by crazy people.” He added that Ada Louise Huxtable remains the model for dealing with citywide and policy issues alongside architecture. “A false dichotomy has been set up; there’s this idea that writing about urban affairs and architecture are separate,” he said. “They’re part of the same world.” He acknowledged the criticism. “When is he going to write about…” he parroted an oft-asked question. “...architecture,” Wright finished—before concurring that the same problem exists in academia where a distinct line is drawn between social history and architectural history. Unsurprising for a former European corespondent, he invoked Rome and suggested that rather than looking at Zaha Hadid’s MAXXI as a sculptural object, he could address its Bilbao-esque intentions. MAXXI may have been positioned as a game changer for an underdeveloped Roman neighborhood, but infrastructural changes needed to be in place to make any real difference. The same thing goes, he contended, at the High Line, whose success now has James Corner getting calls from far flung cities to order up their own High Line that will transform the neighborhood. Kimmelman said such high-profile works of architecture and landscape design are but capstones to what was essentially a very long haul addressing infrastructural and government processes that have little to do with architecture. “It creates the illusion that architecture alone can make a change,” he said said of Gehry's Bilbao. “There was lots of structural and social engineering that preceded the building.” After the event, he spent almost an hour talking with students about sites and projects in New York. Public Space and Public Consciousness will be delivered at 6PM tonight at the Event Oval in the Diana Center.
In collaboration with New York-based common room architects, students at Barnard + Columbia Undergraduate Architecture (b+c a) designed a temporary installation to transform student space at the school's Altschul Atrium. The Altschul building, a modernist structure built in 1969, sits on the northwest corner of Barnard's campus facing east towards the Weiss/Manfredi-designed Diana Center, which opened in January 2011. The new center houses undergraduate architecture, studio art, and art history departments and has brought increased movement to the center of campus, including students looking for space to sit, read and socialize between class. This addition to the campus has also brought attention to the unused atrium space at Altschul, which houses faculty offices and labs. The the idea behind the atrium installation is to encourage a more interactive relationship with the Altschul space as well as with other neighboring buildings on campus. Students and faculty of b+c a have envisioned an installation that accommodates multi-use programming and one that focuses on the importance of flexibility and function. Beginning with a student design competition addressing how best to use the communal space during the academic year, the team developed a design for the atrium. Common room worked with b+c a alumni and current students to design and fabricate a series of plywood and colored mirror pieces that reinforce a spatial concept of overlapping hexagons. As described by common room, "The hexagon operates at three different scales for this project—the scale of the campus, the scale of the atrium space, and the scale of the modular furniture unit." Engaging at all three scales, the atrium installation invites an opening to the larger campus through formation of smaller enclosures within which students can hold exhibitions, informal meetings, and populated events. Low hexagonal stools composed of a plywood shells and stuffed canvas cushion can be reconfigured in groupings around the space and are also easily stackable. With the help of alumni and student volunteers at b+c a, pieces of the atrium will be assembled and installed for use at the start of the academic year. Come September, students will be able to further program the space with use of an interactive events calendar, which will be projected nearby.
Since last year, esteemed architecture photo agency ESTO has been shooting video as well. Here is the latest effort, a look at the Diana Center at Barnard, narrated by the designers, Weiss/Manfredi. From the first frame, we couldn't help but think of Curbed's frequent Rendering vs. Reality feature. From that first frame on, at times it looks like exactly that, like we're looking at a renderings. Were it not for the cars and buses and students passing by at times, we might actually believe so. We're still not sure what Weiss/Manfredi was going for here in terms of appearance, but it certainly seems to be working for the firm.