NEW YORK | Residential Tower (Cornell Tech Roosevelt) | 320 FT | 26 FLOORS

Continuing the discussion from NEW YORK | Cornell Tech’s Roosevelt Campus | (4 Buildings) | FLOORS:

First Renderings Revealed for Cornell Tech’s Residential Tower

Thursday, May 15, 2014, by Curbed Staff

When Cornell dropped dozens of new renderings of its Roosevelt Island tech campus in December, the residential tower was still a mystery. But no longer. Renderings for the 26-story tower were presented last night to Community Board 8 by Andrew Winters, director of capital projects and planning for Cornell NYC Tech, and architect Blake Middleton of Handel Architects.

Winters emphasized how the residential building, is being developed by Hudson Companies and Related Companies, fits in with the master plan for the campus, which is currently in phase one. Phase one includes this residential building, which will house students, staff, and faculty, an academic building, and a co-location building, as well as ample outdoor space all located at the northern most part of the site, where Goldwater Hospital used to sit. The residential tower is at the northeast corner, with green space to the southeast and a planned executive education center (not yet revealed) to the west. Phases two and three, which will be to the south, might not sprout for another 25 years.

The design process for the residential building was inspired by the diagonal lines of the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge and by other towers on islands, such as the San Marco tower in Venice (because a 500-year-old bell tower is the same as a modern glass apartment building?). Through a series of slides, he showed how the design went from simple rectangular prism to the more dynamic final design.

The tower will be 26 stories tall and Middleton said it would have a “warm tone of silver and champagne colors.” Due to flooding concerns, there will be no basement. The first two floors will contain amenities including a “porch” and “lounge,” and the highest occupied floor will contain meeting space. The two floors below that will be for faculty and staff housing. The remaining floors will be student housing. There will be 10,600 gross square feet per floor, and the building will have 356 units.

[The “porch”]

Some members of the community board raised objections to the building’s height, saying it would “disrespect the bridge” and would both interrupt the south view from the bridge and block full views of the bridge itself. However, when it comes to the view from the bridge, it would only be a brief interruption. One member of the board pointed out that the only way the view would really be blocked is by going through the Midtown Tunnel. As for the view of the bridge, it was pointed out that there aren’t many places in either Manhattan or Queens that have a view of the full length of the bridge.

Of course, all of these objections were somewhat strange given that the allowable size of the building and an abstract of its shape were already discussed in previous phases of planning for the campus. In fact, the building presented last night is shorter than it could have been. Cornell was allowed 320 feet and the building proposed is only 285-feet tall (the top of the bridge is at 350 feet). It is also narrower than the allowable envelope relative to the width of the island. Many members of the board also spoke up to voice their support for the plan, one saying the team did a “great job” and another calling it “balanced.”

One member of the board wondered why the towers (both the residential building presented Wednesday and the previously revealed academic building) are on the north end of the campus. The Cornell team replied that this is because solar power units are to its south. Speaking of power, they are testing geothermal energy in one of the current green spaces. Depending on how that goes, more geothermal systems might be installed. Middleton guaranteed that the tower will get at least LEED silver certification, but they will try to achieve gold or higher.

Some members of the committee wondered about public seating and the Cornell team said that from permanent and movable seats to concrete walls to grass, there will be plenty of room to plant your tush (not their phrase) on the campus, which will be open to the public. By mandate, the campus must have at least 20 percent open space, and Winters pointed out that they have actually exceeded that amount. In the end, the plan won approval from the board’s Roosevelt Island Committee, though it was less than unanimous.

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Handel Architects unveils plans for 26-story tower at Cornell’s Roosevelt Island tech campus.

Henry Melcher

The tower, which houses 500 students and faculty members, is wrapped in a high-performance metallic skin designed to help Cornell meet its goal of creating a net-zero campus. “We’re not using as much glass as you might find in the high-end luxury towers that you see all over the city today,” said Middleton. But for the narrow strip of land in the East River, the firm is taking a different approach.

As an academic project, Middleton said there was no market expectation to build floor-to-ceiling windows. Instead, he designed what he called “The Wrap,” a 16-inch-thick, pre-fabricated facade that passively regulates interior temperatures. The tower’s windows, though, are not insignificant; some are roughly 5 feet tall and collectively create bands through the facade. To further increase efficiency, the windows are double—maybe triple—glazed. Middleton describes the exterior as a “high-performance engine” and a “giant thermos.” It is “where the magic happens,” he said.

The building’s exterior is largely a reflection of what was done on the inside to maximize efficiency. The layout, placement, and size of the apartments was designed and planned to reduce the heating and cooling necessary for each unit. The individual units are fairly small and each have their own climate control systems. Middleton said they could not just “superimpose” a high-performance skin on a standard building and expect these kinds of results.


Cornell expects to break ground on this tower, and the rest of Phase 1, in March, 2015.

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Credit: FC


April 25