SPEAKER: And now it is my pleasure to introduce the first of three speakers for this morning's session, Shohei Shigematsu. Shohei joined OMA in 1998 and became a partner a decade later. He has led the OMA office in New York since 2006 and is responsible for OMA's major operations in North America.
Shohei was the project leader on the winning competition of the CCTV headquarters building in Beijing and has been a driving force in conceptual projects for OMA throughout the world. Shohei was the partner in charge of this project, and in fact, was a faculty member for us in our graduate program in New York for two years. Please welcome Shohei to his auditorium.
SHOHEI SHIGEMATSU: Thank you. Good morning. I'm very honored to speak at the auditorium that we designed meticulously, which I explain to you later. Today, I decided to show you the process of designing this building, rather than explaining the building directly how it works. Because we tend to show our concept and outcome too easily as if it born in one afternoon, like this. But actually, we spend a lot of time with a team, working on each individual issues.
I would like to start from the context. We were the third architect in this building, as you know. And of course, Cornell had a higher turnover of leadership compared to us.
Even during the building process, of course, we had to deal with many new authorities, which of course, we used in our favor to be the kind of longest person in the project.
The project also went through many crises, one economical, one kind of internal. For example, the ownership of University Avenue, because of its design, et cetera, it had many delays. But of course, the courage of the college was shown when it was decided right after the Lehman shock to move on. And somehow, this building was regarded as kind of a building that went through the crisis. And of course, we have in our office, have a theory that as opposed to the stock market going down, actually human index such just planning and connecting and thinking have a reverse effect.
And it's also proven-- it's also proven in architectural history that a lot of good architecture and urban manifestos were written during the moment of crisis, including [INAUDIBLE] New York, as Ren was saying, starving artist yesterday. As you can easily imagine, when you don't have enough work, architects have enough time to write good books.
While this is one of the representation of how long it went, since January, 2006, we had like six-- no, eight babies-- born, including Ziad, through the whole process. That's me on the slide. But I, unfortunately, couldn't get a child. So [INAUDIBLE], this building became a kind of projection of my wish.
2001, it was my first project lead, was an extension of Whitney Museum. It was a very complex project similar to this one, attaching to two existing buildings and finding a very limited footprint to launch the building, because both buildings were a landmark, and also actively preserving two buildings, but also reorganizing the whole circuit and the display system of the whole three buildings. So it's very similar to the Millstein.
But somehow, 9/11 happened. And then the whole climate changed in the world, also in OMA, which used to be-- what used to be Far East. But everyone wanted to go east. So I did the competition of CCTV and until design, developed it, this huge building, about five million square feet. I was quite young with leading about 50-people team for about a year and a half.
Now it's almost done. Actually, it's opening new Chinese year next year. And then doing that whole operation in China, I also did a competition of this building. So I have been doing many big projects in Asia before I came back to the United States.
Ziad was also a project leader of this building. It's a World UNESCO site in Germany, refurbishing and remaking the old coal washing plant into a visitor's center in Essen. And there's another architect, Jason Long, in the team who was also working on the headquarters for Rothschild Bank. So somehow, when we came back to Ithaca, it was a kind of a dream team from OMA trying to make this project work, if I retroactively think now.
So the condition was fairly complex, as you know, the four buildings and dispersed disciplines. You could feel the tension from the day one of different departments. And also, as I said, we were the third architect. So that was something very unique in our typical process, because we actually typically start the project. And actually, Renzo Piano takes over. So somehow, it was beautiful to be in a position to take someone over. There is even a conspiracy theory that OMA and Renzo Piano is the same office.
When we started the northern edge, had a very high potential, we thought, because it's facing the gorge. But of course, it was neglected. And also, the challenge to provide a gateway to the campus was, of course, one of the biggest issue for us. Because we were the third architects but the first architect that we had to keep [INAUDIBLE], as it is.
So I show you very quickly many studies that we went through. Massing-- this was a kind of the massing for the given square footage. We did by tower. But it was maybe nice to show some kind of end point. Also like, similar to the I.M. Pei Museum, it's a kind of extension of the central portion of Sibley, though, and delivering over. As you might know, we love [INAUDIBLE].
This one, we liked also. It's kind of sitting in between the east Sibley and Rand, basically very visible from East Avenue. And then we started to wonder, maybe could be interesting to have two buildings. One is a library and one is studios. And then some of that became little bit literal, to create kind of a circuit, and then also providing some gateway quality over Rand.
This one, I like, too. It's a cross shape between Rand and Sibley. And then we were, of course, trying something little bit outrageous, something like this. It's very ugly, but it was just a kind of diagrammatic move. And then somehow, this came. It was a kind of pure square, aligned two buildings on the east side of the Arts Quad, and then very effortlessly kind of providing such a clear site. In way, our massing study became finding the site simultaneously.
So we-- together with Rem, we found this notion that box is typically a kind of freestanding typology. But this box is completely defined, entirely defined by the existing lines of the campus. And then somehow, that became the building and then the site at the same time, providing almost like a mini Arts Quad on the northern campus and also simultaneously connecting different buildings so that the building actually is hugging Sibley and touching Rand and seamlessly providing activity that flows from one to the other. It's almost like adapted reels, but very engaging-- not just making a new building, but creating an old functional, too.
We actually did the master plan. It was partially a political decision, I guess. But because the building was primarily sitting on the architecture side, we thought it would be nice to show the vision for the future, showing the potential extension of other disciples, like planning and art, onto the north side. So somehow, Millstein became a hinge to redirect the alignment here towards west and creating a northern edge.
So we provided this feature. And somehow, this dome here is actually-- doesn't really belong to the plate language but belongs to this strip of landscaping element that is envisioning the future, which was also backed up by the idea that there is an underground parking throughout this whole northern edge. You can arrive directly from parking into the building, which is-- we thought is very necessary for a city like here and also climate like here.
And then once we work on this with the plates-- that plate, we studied how the plate can be. This is the size. It's almost similar-- including the Sibley east wing, it's similar to the World Trade Center footprint. It's a kind of conglomeration, of course, of different rooms in our concept that could be maybe wrapped into a kind of structure. Or it could be a different element, such as books stacks and studios and circulation and auditorium stuck together into one plate. So these words studies.
You can see our struggle that we have to fit a book stack. Because the primary ambition was to move the library out of Sibley. So we couldn't just solve with a plate. So we are adding many things to the room.
And this one came almost like a kind of seamless continuum, a plate that starts from the ground and then ramp to the roof. We thought it was a little too redundant in terms of OMA language. Because we've done many buildings like this. This was having a mezzanine on the north side.
And then we went-- well, we were convinced of the simplicity of the plate. So we went for this very robust box. And then somehow, then the issue became, of course, how to program the inside. This was the book stack being on this side and then providing a studio on this side.
This one, the orientation is different. But the book stacks became on the northern edge and then having some secure area. So after hours, the books, the library is closed. And then you still have big enough space for the studio. So that became almost like a diagram. So you can see here, it consists of series of bands, like reading room here, books stack, another multimedia working area. And this is a kind of public circulation area and then the studio.
But book stack was in late SD cancelled as an idea because of the budget reasons. So suddenly, the whole plate became a studio space. Where the book stack used to be, we programmed as a multi-disciplinary space, where interactive-- well, multidisciplinary studio can take place. So we studied many iterations, and also, even the desk layout.
What was great about providing open-ended box is that we could really participate to the pedagogical issues together with the faculty to the extent that typically, if you provide different rooms, we probably could not have participated. So now, we are very happy that the space is well-used. And of courses, students are very quick on picking up kind of potential, very poetic, and playing badminton, and of course, bicycles. And we like being endorsed as kind of diversity.
Structure-- Bob will explain later. So I will go very quickly. We wanted to have very effortless, as open as possible within the plate in the beginning. So we even had this scheme that all the beams are actually on the roof and provide no column whatsoever in this space. We even thought of a dome can actually support a plate, which in the end, it couldn't. And this was-- this came. It's a kind of lateral slide, many moment frames, and also, moment frames that frames the University Avenue, almost like a tunnel.
But somehow, this was flagged as a very dangerous placement of columns, providing many blind space. So then the cantilever came. So cantilever, in order achieve 48 [INAUDIBLE] cantilever, we had to do many iterations, together [INAUDIBLE]. Or we even had this scheme that there is a central truss in the middle of the street, providing division. So we were a bit sick of it in the end, like almost creating a mega building on top of each other. Or maybe we were lack of space. We even made a shelf just dedicated to structural options.
Another issue was this side on the campus, on the Art Quad side. We call it a forum, a name that peeks into the, of course, very protected historical Arts Quad. So we had to do many studies. This was repeating solid facade with repeated continuing the rhythm of the windows of Sibley. It's going actually out but blind so that you can speak in from the sides, almost like a Marcel Breuer window. It was like a peeled window, more discreet.
But the issue was actually the more detailed issues. You can see the cornice here. And of course, we didn't want to just cut it. So we had to find a solution that can be compatible to the existing cornices. So one thing we did immediately was this one, which we liked. We excavated the facade according to the form of the cornice, only at the top. The other option was to just recess the top plate a little bit so that you provide at the bottom a mini balcony, which we liked very much. But in the end, we couldn't achieve because of the budget reason.
Dome was also, as I said, was a part of the ambition of the master plan. But we wanted to provide something that solves everything that we needed which couldn't fit to the upper plate, such as the access to upper plate, and also [INAUDIBLE] space, and also 300 people auditorium, where you are now. So we wanted to find something that solved all these issues in one single move, which the easiest diagram was something like this, a bridge.
We thought that, as I said, that landscape elements that has contrast to the upper plate would be more interesting. So we started to see more options, kind of multiple domes, more like a fontana-like cuts. And then suddenly-- well, soon it became some kind of plate manipulation. So it rises on one side and creates the slope on the other side for the auditorium and access. But somehow, the idea of dome came naturally as contrast to the Sibley dome, kind of a very artificial landmark dome, but here more landscape and natural dome. We also had the idea that the use of the underside of the dome was almost a high technology CAD/CAM area, where all the model shop and computer technology are put together, so very representative as opposed to the Sibley dome that was library at the time, some kind of center of production.
There was many issues about this exterior, covered exterior spaces, skepticism, rightfully so with such a harsh weather. But our idea was to provide very urban exterior working space. As you can see, we are desperate to convince the faculty with this kind of illustration, art exhibition, light features, even a play. I hope it happens. But somehow, we of course, had to do post engineering or show at least an idea-- for example, having a radiant panel on the ceiling so that in the winter, it's not too cold, and also enclosing the west side.
Also, in order to go against the skepticism, we wanted to make the underside more pleasant, almost like an interior. So we used the American tin ceiling as a motif and blew it up to four feet and then pressed it, as to enhance the idea that this is an urban living room, rather than just covered exterior space. So we provided this kind of curtain that seals the wind, et cetera.
But somehow, that was not enough. As you can see, all the illustrations were very desperate. So somehow at the end of SD, the college asked to actually enclose everything on the ground. So this is one scheme that we had to do to provide another box underneath. So you can see this is enclosed box underneath the current box. So even this side shows the kind of intersection of two boxes.
But I'm very happy currently that-- well, I'm very happy that we didn't have to go to that direction. Because actually, the activity that is happening here is quite diverse and urban. And of course, you get this, [LAUGHTER] even the kind of [INAUDIBLE] to the deer, the kind of natural participants. We even found a student's house yesterday, someone actually, they claimed that they found it in the garbage, [LAUGHTER] in their bedroom, a piece of soffit panel. We like how the things go around.
There is some value engineering that we had to do. And it's kind of-- I just showed you three things that I still think [INAUDIBLE]. It's a balcony on the north side against Foundry I think could have been really nice to have some kind of communication to people walking on a pedestrian side. And there was a window called floor window looking down. Actually, it would have been there, looking down to the auditorium. People who couldn't fit to the auditorium could see from the window above. And of course, it's crazy. But we liked it. We liked the idea.
And the roof access-- of course, we provided such a huge roof area. It was in the beginning was thinking to use it. And it could still happen in the future. But the issue of escapes and the amount of balustrades that you need to protect was too much money.
And as you know, though, that it's so visible from everywhere in the campus, the roof actually has an idea that the density of the green changes from alone Arts Quad to the denser green on the gorge side. So it has this pattern that changes from south to north. It's a very dangerous, so please don't go.
Another thing which we have many VE items, but this one is adding items. So you are sitting on this auditorium, which is simultaneously a boardroom for entire Cornell University. And the board meeting happens a couple of times per year. So we actually have a system that all these board chairs are embedded under the floor. You can see. So this was added like-- when was it-- 2009. So it was pretty much-- the construction was almost happening at the time. And this was the kind of key things to accommodate for the construction.
And we designed this chair that can swivel and also acknowledges the achievement of each board member. So we provided kind of first class chairs that-- a table and microphone and voting system and everything is integrated. But unfortunately, it has to be underground most of the time. Because the individual chair can come up, you can configure it in many different ways. That was also trying to change the dynamics of the board of trustees.
I would like to end with the team and the. Office so as I said, in 2006, we took over the office again after the partner left. And so we started from like six people basically only on this project, the team occupying a room in New York. And soon, it became a kind of real office. Doesn't look like working hard, but taking pictures [INAUDIBLE].
Also with faculty, we had to do many meetings in this kind of very casual manner because we didn't have proper meeting room. In this famous view, it was actually me. I'm not saying this happened because of my leadership. I was the only one who was doing nothing at the time. So I had to hold the plate, so a kind of memento. And then the meetings with many stakeholders were very interesting. This is the process.
And I would like to end at the educational issue. So what we liked the most about it is that we managed to integrate also in a pedagogical level beyond this kind of a star architecture signing session. I heard that some classes actually took place to document the construction process. And it's an honor that our intention to provide a steel box on the top and the concrete building at the bottom, of course, showed a very different process.
And as Ken said, we conducted a studio three times in New York. And actually, I can say that the two best cities award came from interns that had internship at our office two years in a row. And I would like to thank all the team, extended team members, including the design team and also from PBC and also faculty. And more to-- I'm just speaking here as a representative, but this whole session couldn't happen without all these people that were involved in the process. And we won the Building of the Year Award at ArchDaily. Thank you.
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From lectures by Rem Koolhaas, John Reps (M.R.P. '47), and William Forsythe to an exhibition of work by Simon Ungers (B.Arch. '80) to a party unlike any the college has thrown before, Celebrate Milstein Hall energized the AAP community as 500 alumni and guests reconnected with 300 faculty, students, and staff for an exhilarating weekend.