Lerner Hall Student Center
New York, 1994-1999
The design of the student center for Columbia University proved to be challenging because of the requirement that it fit within the university’s historical master plan, a 19th-century neoclassical composition by the firm McKim Mead and White. The strategy adopted works within the regulating lines of the original plan, which mandated double wings, and places the major innovation in the “in-between” space inside them. The two traditional wings are connected by a new type of ramp, with the different features of the program organized along it. more
The required functional rooms are situated inside the double rectangular volumes, while large public spaces such as the main lobby, auditorium, and black-box theater were developed between the two wings. The two wings used the brick and granite materials prevalent in the historical campus, while the space between them is as transparent as current technology allows.
Glass ramps criss-cross the void, connecting the different levels and activities of the student center, while a huge glass wall brings light into the building and allows a striking view over the campus outside. The dramatic void-space or “hub” is animated and defined by the movement of students and visitors along the ramps. During the day, light filters through the suspended glass ramps. At night, as light glows from the inside, figures in movement along this route appear as if in a silent shadow theater. This space of exchange—one of the key, non-localizable functions of a student center—is also an exhibition space; it is the spillover from bar, game room, mailroom, and theater.
The project adopts a “normative” approach to the outside, responding to the McKim plan, while the inner void space deviates from the norm in inventive ways. Similarly, the building is quiet on the outside and filled with activity on the inside. The project approaches the brick-and-granite rules of the McKim master plan as an objet trouvé, a Duchamp-like found object to oppose to the innovative potential of the interstitial spaces between the wings. The result is a hybrid building in which the values of a singular style, aesthetic, or sensibility are contrasted with the clarity of an architectural strategy. back
225,000 sq. feet
Peter Mauss/Esto, Lydia Gould
Lead Designer: Bernard Tschumi. Key Personnel: Tom Kowalski, Mark Haukos, Ruth Berktold, Megan Miller, Kim Starr, Richard Veith, Galia Solomonoff, Yannis Aesopos, Anthony Manzo, Peter Cornell, Jordan Parnass, Frederick Norman.
Associate Architects: Gruzen Samton Associates: Peter Samton, Tim Schmiderer, David Terenzio, Liane Williams, Nick Lombardo, John Mulling, Geoff Doban, Jerzy Lesniak, Nicolas Hedin, Scott Broaddus, Rogelio Escarcega back