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OMA´s Milstein Hall in Danger, and so is the AAP Program at Cornell

As the Milstein Hall at Cornell (designed by OMA, project lead by partner Shohei Shigematsu) was getting the finals approval´s by the City of Ithaca, a strong opposition coming from non-architectural faculty members (arguing a provocative and setting-discording design, high budget, and that the planned project has standard LEED rating instead of Gold) is not only putting the project in danger, but also their architectural program at the AAP.

Their B.Arch (ranked #1 during 2008 in the US for architectural programs) and their MArch (ranked #6) could see an end, as their accreditation depends on their facilities: The NAAB has warned us for over a decade, and have explicitly stated that the last accreditation we got is the FINAL one they will grant without compliant facilities. They have just denied us an accreditation review for our new M.Arch 1 program this spring because of delays to the final approval process. When they return next year, they plan to review both the M1 and B.Arch programs — if we don’t have a building in process at that point, the B.Arch will LOSE its accreditation, and the M1 will be denied the same.

The above statement was taken from an email circulating the Cornell community, posted at Archinect. Read the complete e-mail after the break:

UPDATE: The original author of the letter just added the original version on the comments.

Hi — we’ve just learned that a few members of the University, supported by a few alumni and who knows whom, have made a motion to the faculty senate to stop Milstein Hall. This, after we just received the final approval for proceeding with construction.

These faculty members cite concern over the university’s budget, the fact that the design so far is not a gold Leeds rating, and (the real reason for some of these folks, who have been fighting us every step of the way), the design. Against the latter, they cite Sage & Lincoln hall as exemplars of ‘context-sensitive’ design. (You might recall the corporate, pseudo-gothic-victorian pastiche that served as additions to the business and music schools).

In their vocal publicity efforts, the faculty group and their few supporters are giving the university and Ithaca community the impression that this is the opinion of many of our alumni. Having broadcast their views to various media outlets, and now to the full faculty senate, they want the University to stop the building, and for Arch. go back to the dwg boards to create a cheaper, more ‘contextual’ design.

Even before debating the uninformed opinions noted above, I should point out what any delay at this point would mean. THe NAAB has warned us for over a decade, and have explicitly stated that the last accreditation we got is the FINAL one they will grant without compliant facilities. They have just denied us an accreditation review for our new M.Arch 1 program this spring because of delays to the final approval process. When they return next year, they plan to review both the M1 and B.Arch programs — if we don’t have a building in process at that point, the B.Arch will LOSE its accreditation, and the M1 will be denied the same.

As you can imagine, losing accreditation will be catastrophic. Enrollment will decline precipitously, students will transfer out, operating budgets will decline in turn, and our hard-won reputation will be tarnished irreparably. Very few schools sink to this depth, and no one will stop to ask the reasons for us osing accreditation. The word on the street will be that something is very wrong at Cornell. Our hard-won efforts in the new grad programs will be crushed — it took us 4 years to build the M1 program to Ivy-peers. Imagine how long it would take to disperse the stigma of failure.

If you disagree with the opinions stated above — and with the representation of Architecture alumni opinions — please help us make countering views known. The well-being, if not survival, of our design programs depends on quick and vociferous response (the Senate meeting is scheduled for this Wed.).

To help, please do 1 of the following as soon as possible:

1. Send a letter to the editor of local media outlets. - Cornell Daily Sun: News-editor@cornellsun.com - Cornell Chronicle: SSL4@cornell.edu - Ithaca Journal: atutino@ithaca.gannett.com - Ithaca Times: editor@ithacatimes.com - News10 Now: news@news10now.com - WHCU: gdunn@cyradiogroup.com - WVBR: wvbrnews@yahoo.com

2. Post your online comments to articles already written. Go to the article and add your comments where indicated at the end of the page. -Cornell Daily Sun: http://cornellsun.com/ – Ithaca Journal: http://www.theithacajournal.com/

I’ve attached a letter by some of our colleagues in AAP and on campus protesting Milstein Hall to the Cornell Sun. I’ve also attached 2 responses, one by an Arch. grad student (draft form), another by a Cornell prof on campus (copied below). Zachary’s letter offers a good, brief rebuttal for the budget and Leeds arguments by Architecture’s opponents. Your letter need not be long & time-consuming — Adrian Lewis’s letter below is just a couple of paragraphs.

Please forward this message to others you think may want to contribute. We urgently need your help, and the more response the better.

Cite:David Basulto. "OMA´s Milstein Hall in Danger, and so is the AAP Program at Cornell" 12 Feb 2009. ArchDaily. Accesed . <http://www.archdaily.com/14089/oma%25c2%25b4s-milstein-hall-in-danger-and-so-does-the-aap-program-at-cornell/>