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  1. ArchDaily
  2. Projects
  3. Museum
  4. United States
  5. I.M. Pei
  6. 1973
  7. AD Classics: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University / I.M. Pei

AD Classics: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University / I.M. Pei

AD Classics: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University / I.M. Pei
AD Classics: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University / I.M. Pei, Courtesy of Cornell University
Courtesy of Cornell University

Courtesy of Cornell University Courtesy of Cornell University Courtesy of Cornell University Courtesy of Cornell University +16

  • Architects

  • Location

    Ithaca, New York
  • Architect

    John L. Sullivan
  • Additional Team Members

    Pei Cobb Freed & Partners
  • References

    Cornell University, Chronicle Online.
  • Project Year

    1973
  • Photographs

From the architect. With a desire to make a dramatic statement while maintaining an optimal amount of scenic views, transparent open spaces and windows beautifully contrast the heaviness and boldness of the rectangular forms of concrete.

Courtesy of Cornell University
Courtesy of Cornell University

Located atop a 1,000-foot slope that overlooks Lake Cayuga in Ithaca, the museum was designed by I.M. Pei and John L. Sullivan, with additional help from the firm Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. The museum totals 61,000 square feet, with nine floors stacked high above the ground, housing the exhibit spaces. 

Courtesy of Cornell University
Courtesy of Cornell University

One floor rests underground, where additional galleries and meeting rooms are found. Through stacking the program instead of spreading it out over the lot, the architects were able to perserve much of the surrounding landscape and views.

Courtesy of Cornell University
Courtesy of Cornell University

The massive concerete structure is punctured by long horizontal bands of windows that run along the upper floors. These enhance the space of the galleries, complementing the artworks displayed while providing a bright and airy exhibition space. Skylights are featured around the lobby, and framed in bronze-toned aluminum.

Courtesy of Cornell University
Courtesy of Cornell University

There are multiple instances of cantilevered spaces throughout the Art Museum by means of projected horizontal beams. Some of these spaces become balconies that create their own sense of movement and light, opening up to views of the floors above and below. The most obvious cantilever is the fifth floor, which stretches out over the open aired sculpture garden.

Courtesy of Cornell University
Courtesy of Cornell University

As it was initially imagined, the walls of the museum were to act as a continuous surface. The flowing lines created by stairs and bridges connecting program above the lobby culminate in the master area, distinguishable for it's circular stairway.

Courtesy of Cornell University
Courtesy of Cornell University

The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art is primarily constructed out of concrete, the color and texture of which blends in with the surrounding old masonry buildings. I.M. Pei and his firm researched local materials in order to produce a unique mix of architectural concrete perfect for this specific building and location. This was mixed with sand and small course stone aggregate, then poured into a framework of boards and panels which created the surface pattern.

© Wikimedia Commons
© Wikimedia Commons

Over 80,000 visitors explore the museum a day, and each year there are around twenty special exhibitions. The museum is named after its most substantial benefactor, Herbert Fisk Johnson, who was a graduate of 1922 and head of S.C. Johnson & Sons. 

Courtesy of Cornell University
Courtesy of Cornell University

An extension to the original building, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners have been asked to help meet the needs of the expanding collection. This is projected to be finished in 2011, and is 16,000 sq ft and costs $22 million.  It is mostly funded by the national Endowment for the Humanities and the Kresge Foundation. These new galleries will house contemporary art, and include an outdoor Japanese Garden.

Courtesy of Cornell University
Courtesy of Cornell University
Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address. Cite: Megan Sveiven. "AD Classics: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University / I.M. Pei" 28 Mar 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed . <http://www.archdaily.com/122457/ad-classics-herbert-f-johnson-museum-of-art-cornell-university-i-m-pei/>
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24 Comments

Nichole Kates · December 09, 2014

During the time of post modernism in progress, I find this
building to be modern through its structure, materials, shape, and details. One
can see the structure within the façade of the building. The material use of Architecture
concrete was a good choice to not only blend in with the environment, but with
the surrounding buildings as well. The use of concrete helps to emphasize this
modern look, similar to the way Louis Kahn used concrete within his designs. The
rectangular shapes used are similar to those during the modern time period,
along with the use of Le Corbusier “horizontal windows” from his Five Points of
Architecture. Overall, I find this building very intriguing is the successful
completion of its site context requirements.

Cody Jones · November 19, 2013

This is an amazing display of modern architecture, utilizing the Brutalist style to really bring the structure to the modern age of architecture. The use of architectural concrete also helps to give the building stylish look and also utilizes the modern material to its fullest without seeming superficial.

jennifer koskinen · October 19, 2011

Memories :) AD Classics: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University / I.M. Pei | ArchDaily http://t.co/iKvhJceW via @archdaily

Simon · September 10, 2011

For those that haven't visited it, the museum is perfect for the site, the view inside-out is what makes this a sensible museum.

I guess in an age of surface architecture, not many would understand if its not flashy materials and renderings. Its sad that architecture is being dominated by pedestrians that is trained only by marketing and superficiality.

Bruno Bellomo · July 11, 2011

AD Classics: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University / I.M. Pei http://t.co/53KkUKi vía @archdaily

Danny Castellanos · May 06, 2011

AD Classics: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University / I.M. Pei | ArchDaily http://t.co/QUuN4ay via @archdaily

Matthew Joseph BA · March 30, 2011

RT @KUNGarchitect: I.M. Pei&#39s classic http://fb.me/UCo6WPIG

Gosia Kung, AIA · March 30, 2011

I.M. Pei&#39s classic http://fb.me/UCo6WPIG

Ronak Gandhi · March 30, 2011

RT @ArchDaily: AD Classics: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University / I.M. Pei http://archdai.ly/g9CTkW #architecture

Jennifer · March 30, 2011

AD Classics: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University / I.M. Pei | ArchDaily http://t.co/nmAuQEI via @archdaily

URBAIN trop URBAIN · March 30, 2011

Visiter un classique architectural: Johnson Museum of Art, par I.M. Pei http://ow.ly/4oSLg

?????? · March 29, 2011

RT @ArchDaily: AD Classics: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University / I.M. Pei http://archdai.ly/g9CTkW #architecture

arthur liu · March 29, 2011

one of my favorite buildings. not po-mo at all. brutalist.

Sanjeev Sabharwal · March 29, 2011

Not impressive ... not I M Pei!

sotruckhonk · March 29, 2011

AD Classics: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University ... http://bit.ly/dPgATY

funSleektoo · March 29, 2011

AD Classics: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University ... http://bit.ly/dPgATY

daqb design · March 29, 2011

RT @ArchDaily: AD Classics: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University / I.M. Pei http://archdai.ly/g9CTkW #architecture

Yerm · March 29, 2011

80,000 visitors a day? That is more than the population of Ithaca and Cornell combined. How is that possible?

men · March 30, 2011 09:24 AM

Probably a mistake for 80k a year.

megan paige sveiven · March 29, 2011

AD Classics: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University / I.M. Pei | ArchDaily http://t.co/GHYbdjQ via @archdaily

Kamen Krastev · March 29, 2011

I'm a big fan of I.M. Pei, but this one here.... is scary. It's terrible, it looks like a postmodernism's mistake.

German_Architecture · March 29, 2011 04:30 PM

This building is so not postmodern!
Do you even know Postmodernism???

up_today_arch · March 29, 2011

first time I see this building...
very imressive... fantasticaly strong image...

Katsudon · March 29, 2011

Impressive!

Barry Maguire · March 29, 2011

AD Classics: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University / I.M. Pei via ArchDaily - © Cornell ... http://tinyurl.com/472rcw8

arch_related · March 29, 2011

AD Classics: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University / I.M. Pei: © Cornell UniversityWith a desire ... http://bit.ly/ebQ7S3

···

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