The innovative Cornell Tech campus has officially opened on New York City’s Roosevelt Island. Master planned by SOM and featuring buildings and landscapes by Morphosis, Weiss/Manfredi, Handel Architects and James Corner Field Operations, the campus represents a new vision of a campus for the digital age. Two years after breaking ground in 2015, the campus now houses some of the most environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient buildings in the world.
Driven by principles of collaboration and innovation, the master plan is arranged as create a place that is both separate from and integrated into the city, providing students with a calming atmosphere that is closely linked to New York’s entire city of resources.
“We felt strongly that the framework should stimulate invention — both architectural and scientific. We designed a campus framework that would encourage the creative process now and into the future, flexibly accommodating a growing and evolving institution,” said Colin Koop, Senior Designer on the project and a Director at SOM.
Arranged within this plan are three main structures: The Emma and Georgina Bloomberg Center, The Bridge, and The House.
Designed by Morphosis, the Bloomberg Center is the first academic building on campus, featuring a variety of re-thought learning spaces including both flexible collaborative areas and private work spaces. Ambitious both in concept and in design, the building is striving to become one of the largest net-zero energy buildings in the United States.
“The aim of Cornell Tech to create an urban center for interdisciplinary research and innovation is very much in line with our vision at Morphosis, where we are constantly developing new ways to achieve ever more sustainable buildings and to spark greater connections among the people who use our buildings. With the Bloomberg Center, we’ve pushed the boundaries of current energy efficiency practices and set a new standard for building development in New York City,” said Morphosis founder and design director Thom Mayne.
Next door is the Weiss/Manfredi-designed hub known as The Bridge. A new type of building, The Bridge offers spaces for students to work alongside start-ups and leading companies on diverse technological and business projects. The building is highly open, with gathering areas on each level, including a a multilevel “Tech Gallery” and a solar trellis-shaded rooftop terrace.
“The building is a crystalline social condenser, one that reveals expansive skyline views and creates spaces for academics and entrepreneurs to slow down, talk to one another, and generate ideas in unprecedented ways,” said Marion Weiss and Michael A. Manfredi, co-founders of WEISS/MANFREDI.
The final building to open is The House, the tallest and largest residential Passive House building in the world. Designed by Handel Architects, the building meets the strict Passive House standards for construction to reduce energy use and create a “healthier and more comfortable living environment for a fraction of residents’ usual energy costs.” The building will be occupied by both students and Cornell faculty, creating a year-round campus community.
“The House is a groundbreaking example of sustainable architecture — the largest and tallest Passive House building in the world. It’s our answer to the call for change to combat global warming,” said Gary Handel, President of Handel Architects.
The campus’ open spaces have also been designed with community-building and environmental sustainability in mind, with landscapes designed by James Corner Field Operations. Occupying the entire width of Roosevelt Island, the campus offers extraordinary views of the Manhattan and Queens skylines. A central pedestrian spine known as the Tech Walk connects the buildings of Phase 1 with future phases, while green spaces have been designed to rainwater harvsting and stormwater management.
“With Cornell Tech’s new campus, we have been able to integrate technology, sustainability, and landscape architecture to create a unique urban campus,” said Karen Tamir, James Corner Field Operations’ Principal-in-Charge. “Each of the open spaces work together to provide settings for students, faculty, staff and visitors to sit, talk and collaborate, creating a lively, welcoming, and social environment.”