Letter to the Editor> Cornell Responds to Milstein Hall Rumors

East, Letter to the Editor, Newsletter
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
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Milstein Hall at Cornell University. (Philippe Ruault)

Milstein Hall at Cornell University. (Philippe Ruault)

[ Editor’s Note: The following is a reader-submitted response to a recent Eavesdrop article, “OMA Gosh, What a Disaster!” It appeared as a letter to the editor in a recent print edition, AN02_02.12.2014. Opinions expressed in letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the opinions or sentiments of the newspaper. AN welcomes reader letters, which could appear in our regional print editions. To share your opinion, please email editor@archpaper.com. ]

The Architect’s Newspaper’s gossip column recently mentioned Cornell University’s Milstein Hall, quoting an online interview with Cornell Professor Jonathan Ochshorn. The column repeats a few shocking claims regarding our new addition, Milstein Hall.

Readers of AN are no doubt wondering just how Cornell University managed to receive a building permit and a certificate of occupancy for Milstein Hall, what with its alleged monstrous conditions: an auditorium with only one means of egress, no properly rated area separations between connecting buildings, neglect of ADA requirements, and gross indifference to energy consumption.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that Cornell does not possess a secret formula for achieving any such gross violations of building safety or design integrity. Instead, I’m happy to report, the auditorium, fire separations, and accessibility were built in compliance with ADA and other codes and to the highest professional standards.

Even a cursory review would show that we have not one but four exits from our auditorium; adequate fire barriers between fire areas as required by code; an ADA-compliant design as determined by City of Ithaca building officials and by ADA consultants; and innovative heating, cooling, and daylighting systems that conserve energy.

The so-called fire safety issues were appealed by Professor Ochshorn to the state code review board last spring. The review board ruled against Ochshorn and upheld the code official’s interpretation in six of them. Of the two issues for which Ochshorn’s appeal was sustained, one has since been granted a variance. For the other, Cornell is still reviewing its options while using the space in the interim for a less demanding occupancy that is satisfactory to the code official.

The opinion of one individual not withstanding, we are exceedingly proud of the exemplary architectural work that Rem Koolhaas and OMA have created for our students and faculty.

Kent Kleinman,
Gale and Ira Drukier Dean
College of Architecture, Art and Planning
Cornell University

4 Responses to “Letter to the Editor> Cornell Responds to Milstein Hall Rumors”

  1. Frank McGuire AIA says:

    Although some of us took issue with Dean Kleinman regarding the costs and funding trade-offs of Milstein Hall, I fully support him on this issue. Universities are the great laboratory for inventive ground breaking design. Gehry and Steven Holl at MIT, Rudolph and Saarinen at Yale, Gropius at Harvard, Kahn at Yale and Penn….the list goes on. Are aspects of some of their buildings problematic? Yes. Do they contribute to the visual dialogue and sharpen students awareness of Architecture? Also yes.
    As the Director of facilities at MIT once said to me regarding Holl’s Simmons Hall,
    “If we don’t build these icons, who will?”

  2. David Steele says:

    Building monuments and being experimental does not exclude building to the law or making buildings safe.

  3. Jonathan Ochshorn says:

    I’ve posted a response to Dean Kleinman’s letter on my blog: http://jon.ochshorn.org/2014/02/18/kleinman-on-milstein-halls-so-called-fire-safety-issues/

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