With the donation of $5 million from the chair of trustees Robert Harrison ’76 to launch the fund raising aspect of the project, the Gannett expansion has now solidified into a concrete project in the planning stages. Initial plans call for an increase in the size of the building from 38,000 sq ft to 96,000 sq ft, and a targeted completion date for October 2017 (which means the vast majority of kids that just started at Cornell this week will never see the building completed while students at Ezra’s university). I imagine that, giving a year or so for construction, and an expected price tag of $55 million (one-third of which will be funded via donations), that a couple of years of fund raising is more than enough time for some deep-pocketed alumni to throw their cash into the kitty, and end up with a waiting room or doctor’s office named for them in return. Gannett Health Center opened its doors in 1955 (named for Frank Gannett 1898, the mid-century media titan), and expanded in 1979.
Proposals to expand Gannett have been floating around since at least 2005, and shows up in Cornell’s 2008 master plan. At the time, the plan called for a 90,000-130,000 sq ft building, which means that the above firm proposal falls within those nascent specifications. HOLT architects did a 2007 design study proposing a 119,000 sq ft building. It’s nice to see this one come out of the hazy ether of vague proposals and become a formal proposal. The next question, of course, will be what the design of the structure will be. Given the university’s trend, my inclination is to expect another hypermodern box.
Update 8/28: Ithaca Builds’ Jason Henderson has kindly passed on a link from Chiang O’Brien, a local firm started in 2012 by some former employees of also Ithaca-based HOLT Architects. The two follow similar themes, simple forms but big on geometric detailing, and most of their designs could be described as revamped modern or hypermodern. Looking at their website, I see some massing diagrams of the current facility, but nothing yet for what’s planned.