On the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Barnard College and Columbia University are separated by the broad asphalt strip of Broadway. Barnard is one of the Seven Sisters, traditionally colleges for young women whose menfolk might be educated at Ivy League universities such as Columbia. Architecturally-speaking, from the point-of-view of urbanization and planning, Columbia looks in on itself as a kind of academic island following a famous Beaux Arts master plan by McKim Mead & White. Barnard is less introverted and idealized; it is more piecemeal or improvisational in its campus organization. The new Diana Center by the New York practice Weiss/Manfredi is clearly a landmark for the campus and for the surrounding city. Parallel to Broadway, this long glazed slab is at first glance a cubic and crystalline outcrop: burnt orange to copper, translucent, and especially impressive when illuminated in slanting light or, at dusk, from within. It is clad in taut vertical panels that, on closer inspection, vary in transparency and width within consistent floor-to-floor, horizontal bands. The effect is not unlike a chandelier at an institutional scale with the nuances in fenestration suggestive of rhythms and patterns found in nature. American universities have in recent years sought to juggle the wishes of their all-important donors (often alumni with a sentimental, historicist image of their alma mater) with an evolving need for less formal spaces that promote interdisciplinary connections and that are wired for contemporary technology. Education today is not only less hierarchical…universities need to appear more open. Named for a key benefactor, Diana Vagelos, the Diana Center may seem initially to be a beguilingly foreign object. Nevertheless its architects, Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi, emphasize that its coloration is in part an interpretation of Barnard’s historic palette of dark brick and terracotta. The new building occupies the site of a recently demolished 1960s structure between Lehman Lawn, a grassy entrance zone directly off Broadway, and Milbank Hall, a robust U-shaped monolith to the north. Weiss/Manfredi has conceptualized the site to link these two existing campus nodes with elegant terraces and small lawns, protected from the bustle of Broadway by the bulk of the new building and descending northward to the rather stern embrace of Milbank Hall. The long west elevation of the Diana Center differs from that toward Broadway. This flank is angled in plan-a wedge opening south-and enlivened by protruding strata housing hallways and a grand, almost Mannerist sequence of staircases. Weiss/Manfredi’s work is characterized by such synthesis of building and landscape, by an extension of architecture’s role out from the basic building envelop to include surrounding terrain. This had been evident previously at the Women’s Memorial in Arlington, Virginia; at the Museum of the Earth in Ithaca, New York State; and, most famously, at the Olympic Sculpture Park which zigzags across arterial roads and train tracks to re-connect Downtown Seattle with Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean. For Weiss and Manfredi landscape is a potent civic gesture. They utilize landscape as a fully integral element, perhaps even the generator, of design The Diana Center augments its context by the terracing of external ground surface west of the building, linking Lehman Lawn and Milbank Hall where previously a wall or plinth had blocked casual connections. The landscape metaphor is carried through the new building by the stepping of voids up through the structure, a diagonal topographic section that stimulates viewing. This sense of ground and of mass as a hybrid of the natural and the artificial, the stacking of landscapes in the vertical dimension, recalls certain current Dutch strategies for planning and programmation. Weiss/Manfredi is also, however, drawn to form and to figure, to the beautiful object. With a basement black box theater, the Diana Center provides facilities for all Barnard students as well as academic offices and studio spaces for art and architecture students. The entrance level is animated by an oval-shaped events space to the north and by a café to the south, in the first of the double-height voids. Overlooking the café is a dining room; above that a reading room; and, above the reading groom, a gallery that connects horizontally to the various studios on the upper levels. With peripheral views east to Broadway, these staggered cubic volumes are separated by glass balustrades instigating an almost telescopic prospect down this cascading axis of interior terraces-a romantic echo, perhaps, of Italian Baroque gardens. It is characteristic of Weiss/Manfredi to select and consider a limited palette of materials. At Barnard the contiguous glazed skin includes opaque, translucent and transparent panels, 1,154 in all, arranged according to interior uses. Translucent panels are fritted in vertical lines-orange on exterior surfaces, white for interior partitions-like environmentally scaled bar codes. This graphic striation activates a mildly kinetic sensation. Reminiscent of circulation to the rear of Alvar Aalto’s MIT dormitory, and as articulated in several projects by the late James Stirling, the glazed staircases and hallways projecting west of the Diana Center have crisp white ceilings, walls, and railings. This serpentine conservatory terminates high on the south-facing façade as a prismatic box cantilevering out above Lehman Lawn. From up there a few lucky architecture students enjoy 270-degree views of Barnard, Columbia and Manhattan. Higher again, the building’s roof is designed as an outdoor pedagogical deck for biology and environmental science. Although the palette of materials verges toward minimalism, color is vital to both the exterior and interior of the Diana Center. Opaque exterior panels are a composite of a glazed outer layer, fritted on its inner face, and a vivid red inner metal panel. Inside, reds are present in striped carpet in the atrium-like voids, with lighter tones-orange, pink, gold-in the stripes on upper floors. Weiss/Manfredi furthermore designed such furniture elements as resin-topped tables and curving study carrels to augment a sense of the Diana Center as a welcoming social condenser. Throughout the architects’ work we find this coexistence or fusion of the serious and the pleasurable; as if Weiss and Manfredi constantly balance the pragmatic and the economic and the infrastructural with a joy in design, with effect and a modest re-presentation of moments savored from across architectural culture.