Oculus - Spring 2016 Institutional Shifts - (Page 20)
The Challenges of Expansion
Growing far beyond its Morningside Heights campus, Columbia University strives
to balance academic needs with neighborhood aspirations in Manhattanville
B Y F R E D A . B E R N S T EIN
n 1897, Columbia University moved into its
Morningside Heights campus, described by its
designer - the classicist Charles McKim of McKim,
Mead & White - as an "academic village." But if the
new campus was inward-looking, it was also public.
"As originally developed, the campus was far
more closely integrated with the urban fabric than
it is today," wrote the architectural historian Hilary
Ballon. Back then, she observed, "116th Street was
open to traffic," and University President Seth Low
"rejected a proposed gate that would have served to
privatize" much of McKim's creation.
More than a century later, Columbia still
grapples with the desire to maintain an inwardlooking campus while remaining open to the city.
Achieving both has never been more necessary -
or more difficult.
In 2016, the university will open four new
buildings, including the mammoth Jerome L.
Greene Science Center designed by Renzo Piano
Building Workshop (RPBW) with Davis Brody
Bond. That 450,000-square-foot building is part of
the new Manhattanville campus, which will cover
17 acres west of Broadway and north of 125th
Street. When completed around 2030, following a
master plan by RPBW and Skidmore, Owings &
Merrill, it is expected to contain about 6.8 million square feet, making it far more dense than the
Morningside Heights campus, with its 5.6 million
square feet on some 32 acres.
posed building two skyscrapers inside the original
quadrangle. A few years later (1974), it shoehorned
a new gym, the Dodge Fitness Center by Eggers
Partnership, into the same already overcrowded
space. And as recently as 1999, its student center,
Lerner Hall, designed by then-architecture dean
Bernard Tschumi, FAIA, with Gruzen Samton,
turned its back on Broadway.
But now Columbia is trying to be a better
neighbor. The university, in announcing its goals
for the Manhattanville campus, has emphasized efforts to train and hire locals and to house residents
displaced by demolition. (One building at 148th
Street and Broadway, designed by Magnusson
Architecture and Planning and expected to be
completed in 2016, contains apartments for the
Manhattanville diaspora.) And recently, especially
since Lee Bollinger became president in 2002, the
university has experimented with using architecture as a tool of community relations.
First, Columbia has created buildings that are at
least partly open to the public. The Northwest
Corner Building (2010), designed by the Spanish
architect Rafael Moneo and Davis Brody Bond,
houses laboratories, yet its base includes a public
thoroughfare through the campus's previously
inviolable northern edge.
In 1968, I.M. Pei & Partners
(now Pei Cobb Freed &
Partners) was commissioned
to design a master plan,
which included two towers on
the original Columbia campus.
The magnitude of the expansion poses many
challenges for Columbia, including avoiding the
mistakes of the 1960s. Back then, Columbia's
expansion plans, according to the New York Times,
entailed "purchasing apartment buildings all over
Morningside Heights, displacing thousands of
poor, mostly black and Puerto Rican residents."
When it then attempted to build a gym (designed
by Eggers & Higgins) in city-owned Morningside
Park, anger erupted into riots. For years afterward,
the university - skittish about expanding beyond
McKim's walls - turned inward. In 1968 it commissioned a master plan from I.M. Pei & Partners
(now Pei Cobb Freed & Partners), which pro20
Oculus Spring 2016
©Pei Cobb Freed & Partners
Lessons of history
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Oculus - Spring 2016 Institutional Shifts
Letter from the President
Letter from the Editor
Center for Architecture
One Block Over
Opener: The Intersection of Technology and Walkability
The Challenges of Expansion
A Win-Win at Rockefeller University
1,087 Windows (and a Unique Focus) on the City
Playing a New Tune
A More Perfect Union
Social Innovation by Design
Index to Advertisers
Oculus - Spring 2016 Institutional Shifts
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