The Cheryl and Philip Milstein Teaching and Learning Center
SOM | Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Located at the heart of campus, The Milstein Center is a new hub of academic and intellectual life at Barnard College. The 128,000-square-foot interdisciplinary building is designed to bring students and faculty together distinctively to facilitate collaborations and foster dialogue.
The architect designed The Milstein Center to serve as a crossroads for the campus, community, and its New York City partners. It is a place where students and faculty across disciplines can learn through doing, engage in robust dialogue, and visualize ideas. The architect worked closely with the Barnard community to create a multimodal place that supports the college’s interdisciplinary curriculum through studying, creating, sharing, researching, and synthesizing all forms of knowledge and data. And, because higher education is perpetually changing, the architect integrated new technology and built in the essential flexibility to equip and serve Barnard well into its future.
The Milstein Center is a new kind of library. It celebrates Barnard’s collections and archives, while providing new pedagogical opportunities for faculty and scaffolding new learning experiences for its students. The design infuses a variety of study spaces with opportunities for creative, exploratory learning centers and service points. It provides settings suited to individuals, small teams, and large groups, along with state-of-the-art multimedia centers. The library links all departments and disciplines across the campus—physically, digitally, and philosophically. It is connected to a range of flexible learning spaces, including centers for pedagogy, empirical reasoning, digital humanities, design, and media, as well as a movement lab. Above the library is the Vagelos Computational Science Center, where students and faculty can collaborate on pioneering research in data and computation.
In addition to the library, The Milstein Center provides conference facilities, interdisciplinary workspaces for four academic departments, and new homes for the Athena Center for Leadership Studies and the Barnard Center for Research on Women. The ground floor features a small coffee bar that is open to the public, while the building’s upper stories accommodate faculty offices.
Targeting LEED v3 Silver Certification, The Milstein Center supports both Barnard’s environmental curriculum and behavior change programs being enacted by the student body and faculty. The building is designed to achieve 15 percent energy cost savings compared to ASHRAE 90.1 2007, 33 percent water savings within the building, 50 percent water savings for landscape irrigation, and 90 percent construction waste diversion.
Careful lighting design throughout the building combines natural light, programmed lighting scenes, and individual controls to enhance learning environments while contributing to energy savings.
The Milstein Center is designed in response to its prominent location overlooking the Lawn—the campus’ signature open space. At the start of the design, the architect had inherited a feasibility study that proposed a building massing that would have significantly reduce the amount of daylight on the Lawn. Working with daylight simulation software, the architect developed a massing specifically designed to mitigate this shading despite the building’s required gross area. Instead of a singular, bulky mass, the building features a five-story base that rises in a series of terraced volumes that not only carry the Lawn onto the library floors with additional greenspace, but also break the massing down to a more human scale. These terraces reduce the heat island effect and provide a series of inviting, outdoor spaces for study, contemplation, and connection to nature within the urban campus. More importantly, this massing allows more daylight to reach the Lawn than ever before—even when a much smaller building had previously existed on-site.
On the west side of the building, a narrow, eleven-story tower aligns with the neighboring building, Altschul Hall. The skybridge at the fifth floor links the two buildings to connect the Vagelos Computational Science Center with the science-focused spaces inside Altschul Hall. Near the top of The Milstein Center, a cantilevered volume contains a faculty lounge with sweeping views of the Hudson River, the Columbia University campus, and Midtown Manhattan.
The Milstein Center embodies the culture of intellectual collaboration and interdisciplinary interchange that defines Barnard College, and prepares Barnard for another 125 years of service to women of intellect, ambition, and vision.
SOM is one of the leading architecture, interior design, engineering, and urban planning firms in the world. Since its founding more than 80 years ago, SOM has earned a reputation for design excellence with a portfolio that includes some of the most important architectural accomplishments of the 20th and 21st centuries. It has been a leader in the research and development of specialized technologies, new processes, and innovative ideas, many of which have had a palpable and lasting impact on the design profession and physical environment. The firm’s longstanding leadership in design and building technology has been honored with nearly 2,000 awards for quality, innovation, and management. The American Institute of Architects has recognized SOM twice with its highest honor—the Architecture Firm Award—in 1962 and again in 1996. The firm maintains offices in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Seattle, London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Dubai, and Mumbai.