Oculus - Spring 2016 Institutional Shifts - (Page 24)
©Rafael Viñoly Architects
A Win-Win at Rockefeller University
With its new research center being constructed over the FDR Drive, the university
adds two acres to its private campus while advancing the public realm
B Y J A N E T A DA M S S TRO N G
ockefeller University is one of the world's foremost centers
of biomedical research, fundamentally committed to the
scientific ideal of following wherever curiosity leads. It has no
traditional academic departments, no administrative bureaucracy (lab heads report directly to the university president), and
nothing to deter the faculty's Nobel Prize laureates and their
genius colleagues and students from open exploration.
As the university planned for the new century, challenges
were raised by neighbors who wanted access to the gated campus,
located along the East River between 63rd and 68th Streets, in
the especially hardscaped Upper East Side hospital district. But in
time, with remarkable urbanity, the community came to realize
that free public access to the private campus (and all the security
issues involved) would subvert the environment on which open
scientific inquiry depends and undermine the very qualities that
make Rockefeller University unique. Deferring to the greater
good, residents instead worked with the university on major improvements along the East River, including rehabilitation of the
seawall, a richly landscaped public esplanade, and a new eightfoot-high sound barrier to significantly reduce existing traffic
noise from the FDR Drive. "We worked closely with the community and they came up with a lot of good suggestions," says
George Candler, Rockefeller University associate vice president
for planning and construction. "It was a rewarding experience."
The end result is that the private university will retain its integrity
while significantly advancing the public realm. Win-win.
Guiding the university in the development of a new master plan is Rafael Viñoly Architects (RVA), brought in on the
strength of the firm's extensive laboratory and campus experience, with landscape architect Mathews Nielsen. "To us,"
explains RVA Vice President Jay Bargmann, AIA, "it's a very gray
Oculus Spring 2016
area between what's a building and what's a master plan." It's
not a series of flow charts and diagrams, but "something really
integrated that says what you should do and how it might look. If
you get right down to it, a successful master plan is a building."
Chief among the university's requirements was new research
space. Cutting-edge facilities are "absolutely critical to get the
best and brightest faculty and students in the world," explains
Timothy O'Conner, chief-of-staff and vice president for University Strategy and Research Operations.
To find a suitable expansion site on the constrained campus,
RVA's team investigated various options: a new landside construction along the west (which would have cut off the campus
from the city), a pair of north/south "bookends" (which would
have further polarized the long, linear campus), and a tower
(visually disruptive and spatially constricting). They focused
quickly on development over the FDR Drive, air rights for which
had been secured in 1972 as a safeguard against institutional
growth into the neighborhood.
The solution involves a two-story, three-block-long,
160,000-square-foot laboratory building with offices, conference
space, and communal dining contained within a bridge-like
structure that will run atop the FDR. The Marie-Josée and Henry
R. Kravis Research Building will plug into existing infrastructure and link existing university buildings through multiple
entrances, making it a vital shared facility in a more tightly unified whole. From York Avenue, ascending the natural bluff that
overlooks the river, the campus will extend seamlessly east on
the green roof of the new building, adding a very significant two
acres of land to the existing 14-acre campus.
Open, interactive environments being at the core of modern
research, the new construction facilitates the cross-pollination
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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