Morphosis and Weiss/Manfredi Projects Open on NYC’s Cornell Tech Campus

The Thom Mayne–designed Bloomberg Center is primarily academic while the Weiss/Manfredi–designed “The Bridge” will host offices.

Morphosis Weiss Manfredi Cornell Tech Campus
The Bloomberg Center by Morphosis (left) and The Bridge by Weiss/Manfredi (right). The House by Handel Architects is located behind The Bridge. Courtesy Metropolis

Today, a host of politicians, academics, businesspeople, and architects gathered on New York City’s Roosevelt Island to inaugurate two landmark structures of Cornell Tech, one of the city’s biggest gambits to firmly establish the technology industry in the five boroughs. (Cornell Tech is a partnership between Cornell University and Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, who in 2011 won a city-run competition to build an applied science and engineering campus on the site.) The day’s big unveils were The Bloomberg Center (designed by Morphosis) and The Bridge (designed by Weiss/Manfredi). The House, a residential/dormitory structure designed by Handel Architects, is also up-and-running on the campus.

Morphosis Weiss Manfredi Cornell Tech Campus
The Bloomberg Center Courtesy Metropolis

The Bloomberg Center is a 160,000-square-foot hub that aims to be a center for collaboration and innovation. The building, which is trying for Net Zero and LEED Platinum certification, features 80 geothermal wells, a green roof, smart building systems (designed with Arup), and a 40,000-gallon rainwater harvesting tank that will supply non-potable water. The design “starts from the roof down,” said Morphosis’s founder Thom Mayne, with the rooftop solar panels helping to shape the building’s profile. A prominent all-glass-clad stair—part of an effort to promote walking—sits on the building’s exterior while a broad hallway—what the architects call “The Avenue”—is the 400-foot-long building’s primary north-south connector. Several large atriums also punctuate the building, which is only 40% glazed, helping light reach the interiors. The facade, touted as highly-insulated, also sports small, reflective disks that will change color—to brown, gold, and green—depending on weather and sunlight.

Morphosis Weiss Manfredi Cornell Tech Campus
The Bridge Courtesy Metropolis

The Bridge (developed by Forest City Ratner Companies) is a 230,000-square-foot “corporate co-location building” that houses established companies alongside young start-ups. The design breaks out the many go-to features to promote innovation: a cafe and public spaces for collaboration and chance encounters, transparency within and without to promote visual connections among users and the city, and ample daylight to boost productivity and wellness. Its entrance features what Marion Weiss, co-founder of Weiss/Manfredi, called “tiered informal landscapes”—a series of staggered public landings that extend from The Bridge’s outdoor landscaping to its second floor. The public nature of these spaces was critical for the architects: “We think there’s an ethical dimension to the project that’s critical,” added fellow co-founder Michael Manfredi. The Bridge also features rooftop solar panels and is aiming for LEED Silver. (While all-glass, the facade is just 40% transparent, helping to cut back on solar gain.) A large plinth and cantilever produce both shaded public space while lifting the ground floor ten feet above a 100-year floodplain.

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The two structures join The House at Cornell Tech, a 23-story tower that houses residences for students and faculty. The House also operates at super energy-efficient Passive House standards. And there’s more to come: The Cornell Tech master plan from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill will see five more major buildings arise on the rest of the site, which stretches south another 700 feet or so. The campus currently hosts around 300 graduate students but the goal is to accommodate around 3,000. Furthermore, when complete, the campus will host 2.5 acres of public space and two million square feet of buildings.

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