New York is a different creature when it comes to approvals. This isn’t Ithaca, where many folks feel that Cornell’s large presence makes the local community behooved to approve whatever the university wants to build. Here, people tend to be a lot more vocal, and perhaps a lot more negative. Folks in New York are especially wary of Thom Mayne because of his involvement with the 41 Cooper Square project, a building that has been seen as one of the underlying causes of the financial crisis experienced by local college Cooper Union, which has led to an end of their famous “free tuition” policy.
Last month, Cornell revealed the first phase of the tech campus, which Curbed NY has covered in extensive detail. The first phase has three components; 1) a 150,000 sq ft, 4-story building designed by Thom Mayne (the building lower left; the roof is covered with solar panels, or what Thom Mayne calls a “lily pad”) 2) A six-story, 200,000 sq ft “Colocation Building”, which is designed for corporate and school interaction. This is the building to the right, and is designed by another Cornell favorite, Weiss/Manfredi Architects, and 3) The residential building, represented by the tall featureless box. A design has not been finalized, but is being handled by developer Hudson Companies, in conjunction with Handel Architects. This build will house about 350 units, with larger units for faculty. Construction for the residential tower is proposed for a 2015 start. The campus is wrapped in green space by architect James Corner, who designed a campus without walls and to invite the public to check the school out, and all of this using an Skidmore, Owings and Merrill master plan.
Community groups are difficult to please, however. Although the net zero energy aspect was pleasing, complaints were raised about the large loss of trees, a lack of equipment for the hearing-impaired in the new academic building, and a lack of cohesiveness as the result of so many starchitects trying to compete with each other for attention. Regardless of the complaints, construction is supposed to be underway starting this month. New York and Bloomberg have previously stipulated that the first building must be open by 2017, or Cornell will face major penalties.
On the bright side, Cornell’s getting crap tons of money thrown at its New York investments. Following Chuck Fenney ’56′s $350 million donation to the tech campus, former Qualcomm Chairman Irwin Jacobs ’56 gave a $133 million donation last April, and total donations to the tech campus exceed $500 million. Weill Cornell has not been left out by all this tech campus attention; they were the recent recipients of a $75 million donation for cancer research, courtesy of former CEO of Grey Global Group Edward Mayer ’48 and his family.