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Archtober Building of the Day #27: Knowledge Center at Columbia University Medical Center

Posted on October 27, 2016

Knowledge Center at Columbia University Medical Center
701 West 168th Street
New York, NY
Mitchel | Giurgola Architects

© Center for Architecture

© Center for Architecture

Columbia University came to Mitchell | Giurgola for the renovation of their Knowledge Center after they previously renovated their Learning and Teaching Center in 2008. Originally housing the Columbia University Medical Center’s library, Jill Wendorff and Carl Gruswitz wanted to take the space in a different direction than the classic definition of a “library.” Recognizing that a university’s collections consist of more than just books, Wendorff and Gruswitz rebranded the area as the Knowledge Center, where tech and data outlets abound. To that effect, Mitchell | Giurgola moved the majority of books offsite and opened up the area to make it much more collaborative. Wendorff wanted to create an open area while having different zones with different purposes.

© Center for Architecture

© Center for Architecture

Different furniture items and carpet patterns help designate these different zones. In the spirit of creating a 21st century study space, Wendorff wanted to add as many power outlets as possible. When it became clear that it wasn’t possible to add hundreds of new outlets on the floor, which would make it structurally unstable, Wendorff worked with Steelcase to create furniture with outlets built into them, thereby distributing the power outlets throughout the room without having to add power outlets to the floor.

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© Center for Architecture

Wendorff wanted the space to be as flexible as possible, so she added movable whiteboards throughout the Knowledge Center, which added study tools and helps block off sections of the space. While the majority of the space is very open, there are rooms around the perimeter that allow students and educators to use the rooms for classroom use, conferences, or just to have a quiet room to work in. In creating the new conferences rooms, Mitchell | Guirgola pulled back portions of the wall to create a new corridor space, connecting the first floor Knowledge Center with the Teaching and Learning Centers on the lower levels.

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© Center for Architecture

Mitchell | Giurgola renovated the lower levels in 2008, which at the time contained the Medical School’s library. Gruswitz wanted to shrink the collection as much as possible to add new classrooms and learning spaces. Much of the collection was moved offsite, while other materials were digitized as much as possible. For the materials that had to remain on site, Gruswitz employed the use of compact shelving to further compress the collection as much as possible.

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© Center for Architecture

A total of seventeen classrooms were added to the lower levels of differing sizes. Much like the Knowledge Center on the first floor, the classrooms are able to be divided into different sizes, depending on need. Movable walls allow the larger classrooms to transform into two smaller classrooms, adding much needed space when needed. The classrooms follow the very collaborative method of learning featured throughout the site. They have large tables with computer connections that allow students to share images with other students also connected at the table. Additionally, large TV screens allow them to display the images for the entire class when needed.

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© Center for Architecture

The classrooms extend out into the sidewalk, and as Gruswitz told us, the space originally had a large supporting column through the middle. This column had to be removed to accommodate the classroom, so Mitchell | Giurgola instead installed a large horizontal girder through the ceiling for structural support.

We ended our tour in the student lounge, which had large windows installed during the 2008 renovation. This allows those in the Knowledge Center to peer down to the lounge. The added glass also helps to bring light into the subterranean space. During the renovation, a new entrance was installed by cutting a doorway in the façade. All in all, the renovation of the space helps to create a totally new collaborative environment for the entire Columbia Medical Center.

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© Center for Architecture

Join us tomorrow as venture to Hudson Yards!

img_5862Jacob Fredi is the Public Programs and Exhibitions Coordinator at the Center for Architecture. When he’s not on Building of the Day tours, you can find him playing board games (Shadows Over Camelot!) and brewing his own beer.

Archtober Building of the Day #26: Gould Memorial Library

Posted on October 26, 2016

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© Center for Architecture

Standing on the highest natural point in all of the Bronx, Bronx Community College boasts the building known as architect Stanford White’s shining achievement – the Gould Memorial Library. Inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia Library, the library forms the centerpiece of White’s late-19th century master plan for the campus, originally the “country” campus of New York University.

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© Center for Architecture

Preservation architect Lisa Easton, who has worked with Stanford White buildings since 2004, explained that, around the turn of the 20th century a campus master plan manifested the vision of higher education’s purpose in a “grand manner.”

Listed as a National Historic Landmark, Easton pointed out that the interior of the building is landmarked as well. Tiffany Studios created the library interior. “It’s a jewel in there,” Easton said. In the library’s grand central rotunda, which formed the reading room of the non-circulating library, Connemara marble pillars support the domed roof. The library fell into disuse in 1969 when anti-Vietnam War demonstrators set a fire in the building. Today the stacks surrounding the rotunda are empty of books.

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© Center for Architecture

In the right light, a look upward just above the glass-floored ambulatory that encircles the rotunda can reveal the Tiffany windows that masked the stacks from view.

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© Center for Architecture

More than a just a library, the building also houses a downstairs auditorium that can hold upwards of 700 people. Outside and around the back of the building, overlooking the Harlem River, a colonnaded Hall of Fame, the first such built in the United States, contains busts of notable statesmen, scientists, authors, inventors, and other men and women deemed people of “great citizenry.”

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© Center for Architecture

Today the Gould Memorial Library is a gem of a building without a use. Built with only one means of ingress and egress, current laws limit occupancy of the building to 74 people at one time. “But it’s restorable,” Easton noted, “and that’s important in an age when it’s easier to build something new rather than restore.” She added that grants have been secured from the Getty Foundation Campus Heritage Grants program to fund repairs to the building and bring it up to current code so that new uses can be discovered for this Stanford White masterpiece.

Join us tomorrow at the Knowledge Center at Columbia University!

 

img_1053-version-5Carol Bartold received the MFA in Writing from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York and a BA with Honors in Music from Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia. An accountant by trade, she is the bookkeeper at AIANY| Center for Architecture. As Senior Reporter for MyHometownBronxville.com, a local news website, she covers municipal government, education, business, and land use. She has sung professionally at Sarah Lawrence College with the Women’s Vocal Ensemble and Chamber Choir, and with the Concordia College Camerata. Her essay “At Full Thrust” was published by Prairie Schooner blog.

Archtober Building of the Day #25: The Met Breuer

Posted on October 25, 2016

The Met Breuer
945 Madison Avenue
New York, NY
Marcel Breuer (1966); Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners (2016)

© Center for Architecture

© Center for Architecture

With only six days left in the month, Archtober 2016 Building of the Day tours are sadly coming to a close. A variety of new and innovative spaces mixed with old favorites and hidden gems to present a mosaic of New York’s most impressive architecture. This year’s list would not be complete without Marcel Breuer’s iconic Whitney Museum, now known as the Met Breuer.

© Center for Architecture

© Center for Architecture

The Met Breuer, which opened in March of this year, houses the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s expanding modern and contemporary collections within its modest 29,000 square feet of exhibition space. When the Met moved into the building, its main goals were to restore and rejuvenate the space while still preserving the patina of the past. To that end, the Met gave the former Whitney the kind of exacting precision and gentle care it uses on its most treasured art objects.

© Center for Architecture

© Center for Architecture

That precision and care resulted in a building that both honors Breuer’s original vision and updates the space to meet the challenges of contemporary museums. The Met enlisted the help of Beyer Blinder Belle, a firm that specializes in revitalization of historic buildings and has significant experience with restoration of other mid-century modernist icons (Eero Saarinen’s TWA Flight Center at JFK International and Wallace Harrison’s Lincoln Center Promenade are two great examples). The restoration of the building took just under a year.

© Center for Architecture

© Center for Architecture

The updates that the Met and Beyer Blinder Belle incorporated show an informed understanding of Breuer’s subtle, graceful materiality and his ingenious structural engineering. A multitude of restoration and revitalization techniques needed to be devised for the various materials used in the building, which include terrazzo, concrete, walnut parquet, and the famed gray granite exterior. The bluestone floors were treated with a natural, black wax to bring a soft luster to the floors, while the walls, which required both chemical cleaners and water, were treated with a gentle, painterly approach. Breuer designed with the effects of time on materials in mind. The Met and Beyer Blinder Belle followed this example by leaving the bronze handrails of the staircase unfinished, allowing them to show their wear.

© Center for Architecture

© Center for Architecture

The lobby showcases the updates made for a contemporary museum with greater visitor numbers. The space was completely redesigned with multiple ticket sales points, self-service kiosks, and a substantially decreased retail footprint. Additionally, the lighting in the lobby has been updated to Breuer bulbs that can dim and provide a warmer uniformity of color temperature. The plexiglass and stone information center originally installed has been changed to an LED screen.

© Center for Architecture

© Center for Architecture

For the time being, the Met and the Whitney share ownership of the building. The Met will occupy the Breuer masterpiece for eight years, with a possible extension to 15 should the Met Breuer prove to be a success.

© Center for Architecture

© Center for Architecture

Despite its fame, the Breuer building is not a New York City landmark. Perhaps with a new tenant and renewed interest in the space, the building will get the recognition it deserves. Otherwise, its fate will be another question for the city and architecture lovers, should the Met end up vacating.

anna_hsAnna Gibertini is a freelance journalist based in the New York metropolitan area. She contributes regularly to The ArtBlog, a Philadelphia-based arts and culture publication, and has had work published in Charleston, South Carolina’s Post & Courier and Syracuse, New York’s The Post Standard. She recently graduated from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications with a master’s in arts journalism.