Cornell University Weill Hall

Weill Hall is the cornerstone building of Cornell Universitys Genomics Initiative: a campus-wide, faculty-driven research, development, and educational program intended to enhance Cornells leading role in the study of life sciences. Richard Meier Partners design for the building introduces a new standard for an interdisciplinary research facility, merging biological, physical, engineering, and computational science laboratories with social/interactive spaces to encourage academic cross-pollination. The building is a deceptively simple efficient solution to a complex building type, and has inspired great enthusiasm and praise from its occupants.

It has been Cornells intention that Weill Hall be a truly special landmark building and a gateway to Campus, an elegant example of the natural integration of functional planning, technical systems, coordination, sustainability, and a collaborative spirit of place for its users and the University community a whole. Weill Hall is located on a highly visible and programmatically important site on the eastern edge of Cornell Universitys Central Campus. The site was previously an athletic field, and was chosen from several options following an extensive and thorough Site Selection analysis by Richard Meier Partners. In choosing this site, Cornell realized the potential for Weill Hall to become a literal and figurative focal point for its Science and Research community.

Weill Hall unites a local neighborhood of disparate science buildings in the Campus Core, encouraging intellectual and physical connectivity with other research disciplines. The building respects the scale of the surrounding context and unites existing buildings into an ensemble relationship. Together with the buildings on the opposite side of Tower Road, Weill Hall is designed to form an enhanced and highly visible entrance to the Central Campus.

Guided by the premise that programmatically complex buildings are best planned around simple organizational ideas, Weill Hall is a model of efficiency. Maximum flexibility and adaptability are inherent in the regular geometry of the design, and the building has already proven able to adapt to shifting research requirements while maintaining the integrity of the design.

Weill Halls underlying organizational structure is an expression of geometric and formal complexity that enriches the character of the Cornell campus adjacent to the building. From Weill Halls dialogue with adjacent buildings, to the careful layering of the facade, the interplay of form and geometry creates rich spatial relationships that are emphasized by light and shadow, solid and void. The exterior design of Weill Hall reflects the crisp geometry and clear ordering of the building concept. The simplicity of the two dimensional building diagram is enriched by a carefully studied volumetric complexity, clearly expressed through the facade. The extensive use of clear glass lends a quality of lightness and transparency to the building, while allowing for the introduction of the natural daylight that floods the interior.

Weill Hall is clad with nearly 15,000 white aluminum panels that are arranged in a 3 x 3 grid. The panels reflect and engage the ever-changing quality and coloration of light throughout the day. As a result, the facades of the building are continually in motion, with light and shadow a formative material in the architecture of the building.
Weill Halls fundamental design is derived from careful analyses of several different, equally important facets of the buildings inherent characteristics. Geometry, programmatic sub-divisions, circulation, and building structure, among other elements, are the main determinants of the architecture. Weill Hall clearly expresses its design foundations and basic concept as a result of this rigorous analysis.

The basic geometry of Weill Hall is of four squares that establish the main Bar portion of the building. The repetition of the square establishes the linear organization and regular modulation of the Laboratories and associated spaces; Circulation and Building Structure clearly follow and reinforce this careful and crisp geometry. The locations of the Atrium, building entrances, and the Learning Center are all clearly derived from the cues established by this simple and overarching geometric principle.

The orthogonal nature of the underlying concept is expressed spatially within the building, on the facade, and out in the site. Guided by the fundamental design principle, alignments, views, and natural light lead occupants through the building while reinforcing the clear geometry of the design diagram.

The interior of Weill Hall is designed to inspire its occupants with openness, lightness, and airiness. Views to the outside and generous natural light enliven the building, while a simple materials palette, clean organization, and clear sight lines create spaces of richness and complexity. Researchers and staff occupy a building that has been designed with both spatial experience and programmatic function given great attention.

Weill Hall is, first and foremost, a Life Sciences research facility. The Life Sciences are a rapidly expanding and widely variable set of disciplines that include Biomedical Engineering, Cellular Biology, and Molecular Biology. These areas of study are in a constant state of evolution as new discoveries lead the scientific community to new fields of research. To accommodate this dynamically changing field, the Laboratories at Weill Hall had to be designed with maximum flexibility and adjustability. Programmatic priorities and attention to spatial experience have been beautifully combined in the design of the Weill Hall Laboratories. Architectural trademarks such as expansive windows, extraordinary natural light, and clean lines set these Laboratories apart as both functional and inspirational spaces for research into the Life Sciences.

Environmental sustainability and energy efficiency have been fundamental to both the design approach and the construction process of Weill Hall. The Building has been awarded LEED Gold Certification, recognizing both Richard Meier Partners and Cornell Universitys substantial commitments to the creation of environmentally responsible buildings. As a result of these efforts, Weill Hall consumes 40 less energy than other buildings of comparable size and program, and stands as one of only six Laboratory Buildings to receive LEED Gold Certification.

The completion of Weill Hall is the culmination of an eight year design and construction process, involving a team of nearly thirty professional design and planning advisors, and supported by an expert group of Cornell administration and faculty. The resulting facility is designed to be a Hundred Year Building, promising to provide support for groundbreaking research that will make significant contributions to humanity and improve of the lives of many for years to come.


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