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Steven Holl Architects of New York wins Cornell University's design competition for new building to house Department of Architecture Holl's distinctive structure was 'absolutely the clear winner,' says university architect

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Steven Holl's stunning cubic design, with its transparent and translucent facades and Cayuga Lake and Fall Creek gorge views, is the clear winner in Cornell's College of Architecture, Art and Planning's design competition.

"The decision of the jury was unanimous and enthusiastic, which almost never happens in this type of competition," said University Architect Peter Karp, echoing comments of the selection jury and university administrators.

Holl, of Steven Holl Architects, New York, was one of four internationally acclaimed architects whose proposals for the $25 million project qualified them as finalists. The other submissions came from: Peter Zumthor, architect, of Switzerland; Thom Mayne of Morphosis Architects of Santa Monica, Calif.; and Tod Williams and Billie Tsien of Tod Williams Billie Tsien and Associates, New York. Last week, on April 18, approximately 750 people attended a public exhibit and presentation of the proposed designs in Bailey Hall.

The competition was created to assist the university in its selection of an architect for the new Milstein Hall which will replace Rand Hall. Holl will now work with the university and the Department of Architecture on a final design that should greatly resemble the proposal submitted for the competition, Karp said. Holl stated his design is meant to "open the school of architecture to the rest of the university" -- and his design does just that. Holl's elegant proposal calls for a seven-story, cube-shaped building with a northern façade made of clear glass to enhance lake and gorge views. The design's southern and eastern façades call for translucent glass -- to enhance sustainable climate control -- while the western exposure is faced with aluminum. The building also serves as a "gateway into the academic campus from the north by virtue of a public passageway that connects visually into a lower ground floor containing an exhibition gallery and auditorium," according to written comments from the selection jury of six prestigious architects.

In its published commentary, the jury also stated: "This compact, cubic structure creates an undeniably powerful image for both the university and the Department of Architecture … echoing in its mass and unique position the Belvedere form of the Johnson Art Museum, this building ... will act as a giant lantern at night, thus not only serving as a nocturnal landmark but also inducing a greater sense of security within the immediate precinct."

The six-member jury was chaired by James Polshek, founding partner and senior design principal of Polshek Partnership Architect, New York. Polshek is a former dean of faculty of the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University, and co-founder of Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility. His firm's projects include the Carnegie Hall renovation, the American Museum of Natural History's Rose Planetarium and the Clinton Presidential Library. Other members of the selection jury included Kenneth Frampton, architectural critic, author and the Ware Professor of Architecture at Columbia University; Toshiko Mori, principal of Toshiko Mori Architect, New York, and professor in the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University; Carmé Piños, architect, Barcelona, Spain; Terence Riley, chief curator of the Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York; and Heinz Tesar, architect, Vienna, Austria.

Construction of the $25 million project is expected to be completed by fall 2004.