Sep '06 - May '10
Rem Koolhaas- "The box is always an isolated thing. But here, we use the box as a connector. You could say it's a postmodern use of the box." He said he had entered the "apparent warfare between blob and box" in contemporary architecture, and that he was "trying to short-circuit that dialectic."
The press, including the New York Times (read article here ) has generated a lot of excitement on RemÂ Koolhaas'Â appearance at Cornell University with his presentation ofÂ the new Milstein Hall.Â Hundreds of people at Cornell gathered in front of Bailey Hall on a sunny afternoon in order to see Rem Koolhaas reveal what may be, College of AAP's future studio.
Planning for Milstein Hall has been an extensive one. The College of Architecture Art and Planning Â (AAP) had always needed new spaces because the outdated Rand Hall and Sibley Hall were not sufficient enough to handle many of the current operations. Planning stages for the project began when a generous donor gave 10 million dollars to AAP.
The lecture was first introduced by Mohsen Mostafavi, the DeanÂ of AAP. He explained his decision to select the Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) to design Milstein Hall "an easy choice" because they provide innovative responsive applications. Two requirements were given into consideration- 1. Milstein HallÂ had toÂ beÂ able to preserve Rand Hall and 2. be open to future extensions. Part of the reason why the previous proposals were unable to be realized was because Rand Hall could not be preserved.
Mohsen's introduction was followed by a welcoming bizarre clip made by my TA of Rem Koolhaas dressed in a suit standing behind a turntable with a stray llama drifting in the background (the video clip was used in an architecture party afterwards in my studio.Â RemÂ became the new 'cool' in our class).
Rem Koolhaas begins with several current projects, including the CCTVÂ Tower currently in construction in BeijingÂ and ways in which the Europian Union can be represented. He describes the machineries inside "buildings that can perform in a typical way that is interesecting but intervenes in particular cultures" to be particulary important. He addresses the importance of preservation and how we should keep history by maintaining authenticity in all its forms.
Rem addresses the "box" as an "infashionable form from the very beginning", autonomous and not contextual, an idea paralleled to Mies van de rohe's meditation of the box. Rem talks about several projects relating to the box, including Wyly Theatre being constructed in Dallas and Mies' box at IIT.
Koolhaas then outlines his plans for Milstein Hall, described as a college-wide facility that would allow for a collaboration across disciplines. Milstein Hall would unite the disparate elements around it by addressing the '"scandalous neglect", which Rem refers to the parking space that sits in between Sibley Hall and the Gorge. Part of the design of Milstein Hall will be its ability to make a connection between the presence of the gorge to the Arts Quad and serve also as a public space that will be able to revitalize the Arts Quad.
Rem Koolhaas introduces the "box" as the solution to the problem. However unlike Mies' autonomous box, this "box" engages with other buildings. The box is 'impure' as it is contaminated by its neighbors. The structure floats to allow traffic underneath it and intersects with Rand Hall and Sibley Hall. The structure aligns with the eastern row of buildings in the arts quad and the row of buildings along the gorge to create a continuity, allowing Milstein Hall to be "absorb every connection".
This "box" transforms into what will be once a parking lot into a compilation of layers, with one above and one below. A deformation within the layers, as defined by this 'bump' intersects with the other layers creates programatic elements for the entire campus and interesting spaces. The bump can be seen as a way of connecting the landscape around it with the spaces within.
The interaction of the layers through this deformationÂ blurs theÂ distinction between interior/exterior spaces and private/public spaces. The deformation of the layer that connects to the ground layer allows the public to easily access exhibition and auditorium spaces.Â The Auditorium space is created as a result of this deformation within the layers. Its lighting connections are easily changed by a single wall of fabric that can move to allow natural lighting in. Because very few walls exist within the building to allow for future modifications, spaces are defined by zones. Studio space is separated from the internet space by a library space.
Sky lights puncture the upper layer to allow natural lighting in. The upper layer also serves as a pavilion which overlooks the gorge and the rest of campus.
The building occupies half of the parking lot. The exact design of the remaining half is still in its planning stages but it will be converted into a landscape that will create public spaces for people to enjoy and accomodate parking spaces as well.
The project consists of two phases. The first phase involves the construction of Milstein Hall. The second phase will move the entire fine arts library from sibley hall into the new studio to make the spaces within Sibley more efficient. Rand Hall for the most part will remain intact but its interior will be renovated and the extent to which Sibley Hall will be modified is still uncertain.
The presentation later asÂ followed by some harsh criticism from the audience and first year students wondering if there will be a resting place in the studio (we just finished our first project and the all nighters hit us hard). Throughout the campus, there has been mixed reviews about the building. For the most part, architecture students here love the idea of the building.
Rem Koolhaas fled the scene quickly after the lecture (i think he was a little annoyed by the questions) but I was able to talk to the project leader of Milstein Hall. He mentioned that concrete and glass will be the primary materials used for the project. If all goes well, the project will be completed by 2009.Â
Milstein Hall's design seems to be a little more on the conservative side compared to OMA's other current projects such as the CCTV tower and the Seattle Public Library. Koolhaas introduces the box into the project, a universal and common symbol unlike the balloon he inflated (serpentine pavilion) or the multi-layered seattle public library that is novel. What I would have expected OMA to have done was to create something wild or radical for this project.
However "boring" or "mundane" (according to the public reaction), OMA's proposal of Milstein Hall is very effective addressing the problems at hand. As said by Koolhaas himself, Milstein Hall is not supposed to be a project that is "glamorous" or "exceptional" but an "intricate" one. Rather than standing out by itself in some preposterous manner, Milstein Hall humbly reconciles with Rand Hall and preserves it, compromising with its surroundings. In doing so, Rem develops a space that is both effective and efficient.
Although I will most likely be able to spend only one year in Milstein Hall (if all goes according to plan), I am excited that I will be able to observe and follow the construction of Milstein Hall. That in itself will be an incredible educational experience for me.
there has been mixed reviews about this project. what do you guys think about this project?
here is a hilarious article by ivyleak on Milstein Hall.
ithaca journal reports
Cornell Sun article
cornell chronicle article
cornell sun article