Milstein Hall now complete with state-of-the-art auditorium
By Daniel Aloi
A new 257-seat auditorium will be the center of activity for the College of Architecture, Art and Planning (AAP) and will complete the Milstein Hall project when it opens Oct. 20, the day architect Rem Koolhaas speaks on campus.
"The auditorium is the last space to be completed, but it is well worth the wait," said Kent Kleinman, the Gale and Ira Drukier Dean of AAP. "It is not possible to describe the complex geometries and spatial qualities of this marvelous lecture hall. People will have to come by and see it for themselves."
Equipped with state-of-the-art seating, lighting, flooring, digital audiovisual and wireless technology, the auditorium can be configured for a variety of uses.
"This room is going to be used for a lot of things by the college, for large classes, special lectures and other events," said John McKeown, Milstein Hall project manager for AAP.
There are seven rows of moveable seating on the floor and 10 rows of tiered, fixed seats on "the bump," Milstein Hall's internal concrete dome. The backs of the fixed seats can be folded down to create additional workspace or room for architectural models. Attached writing tablets fold under the seats when not in use. The seating "will stand up to heavy use over the years," McKeown said.
With additional viewing area on a balcony, the space can accommodate 275 people. With the curtains open, activity in the auditorium also is visible from outside and from internal vantage points on all three levels of Milstein Hall.
The front of the auditorium has a wall-length slate chalkboard, two large video monitors and a 15.5-by-25-foot projection screen that retracts into the ceiling. Connection points in the floor hold electrical outlets and ports for 18 microphones and a digital audiovisual system.
The Cornell Board of Trustees will be the first users of the auditorium when they hold meetings there Oct. 21-22.
An innovative mechanical flooring system and 61 concealed, motorized seats (from Figueras International Seating in Spain) have been installed for trustee meetings.
Milstein Hall, which connects to both Rand and Sibley halls, has been touted as a versatile pedagogical space that fulfills a long-standing need for improved studios and facilities for the college's top-ranked architecture program.
About 200 architecture students started their studio instruction in the building at the beginning of the semester.
The building was designed by OMA, a firm based in Rotterdam and Manhattan. Koolhaas, an OMA founding partner, will give a free public lecture, "Progress," Oct. 20 at 5:15 p.m. in Bailey Hall. He also will tour Milstein Hall with Kleinman, lead designer Shohei Shigematsu and other members of the firm.
"It is wonderful to see Milstein Hall full of life," Kleinman said. "Our students are not just creative in their work, they are also creative in their habits. There is a kind of decorous courtship going on between the students and the very unusual and provocative spaces offered by the building. They are using the building in ways never anticipated, but inspiring to witness."
No classes or lectures have yet been scheduled in the new auditorium. However, some AAP faculty members have expressed interest in moving their classes there, McKeown said.
The college is planning a public celebration of Milstein Hall in the spring, with academic events March 9-10, receptions and exhibitions.