Model Architecture

I wanted to make sure that you didn’t miss the insightful article in The New York Times on Wednesday, February 9, about the new interdisciplinary science building at Columbia University by the Spanish architect José Rafael Moneo, at the corner of Broadway and 120th Street. As Nicolai Ouroussoff explains, the structure “draws on a range of precedents, from the austere Modernism of Adolf Loos to the original McKim, Mead & White master plan for Columbia’s Morningside Heights campus. Its muscular steel-and-aluminum frame is a vivid example of how to fit into a difficult historical context without slavishly kowtowing to it.”

He goes on to say, “…it is the tension Mr. Moneo creates between new and old that brings the building to life. The upper floors are clad in what may be the most elegant aluminum siding in America: a taut steel grid filled in with an irregular pattern of diagonal steel braces and aluminum louvers. The braces are not decorative — they reflect the uneven loads and stresses on the building, which is supported on an enormous truss that spans the gym below. But even if you don’t know this, you intuitively sense the tension that is built into them; it is as if the structure were straining to break free of the constraints of the site. The effect is especially acute at the corner, where the building suddenly seems to crack open from the stress, its upper floors cantilevering 15 feet over the lobby entrance … A stair ascends to a mezzanine-level cafe that overlooks the street through floor-to-ceiling windows: a kind of interstitial zone floating just above the city.”