Monday, August 14, 2006

Renzo Piano's Campus of Glass Boxes

I sent this letter to the editor of Columbia magazine in response to an article about the planned Manhattanville campus, just north of the Morningside Heights campus, designed by Renzo Piano.


I am all for developing the Manhattanville campus, but why do the illustrations have such retrograde architecture? Renzo Piano's glass boxes would have been cutting edge back when Ferris Booth Hall was being designed, but by the 1970s, they were already an outdated cliche.

Glass boxes are not pedestrian friendly. Many commercial districts have design guidelines requiring that store window be separated by piers, because a continuous sheet of glass looks sterile and does not appeal to pedestrians.

Glass boxes are not environmentally sound. Even with the latest high-tech materials, glass buildings use more energy for heating and cooling than buildings with solid walls.

Glass boxes obviously are not in keeping with the existing architecture of the neighborhood. They ignore their context to project a slick image.

Let's design a new campus that is compatible with the neo-classic style of the existing Columbia campus - not with the neo-glassic style of the mid-twentieth century.

Charles Siegel