The Tata Innovation Center is designed to leverage the resources of a major university with the world’s leading technology-focused companies. The seven-story building, developed in partnership with Forest City New York, supports Cornell Tech’s efforts to fuse entrepreneurial and academic ambitions on its new Roosevelt Island campus in New York City.
The Tata Innovation Center seeks to promote invention by encouraging a new programmatic configuration: close interaction between academic researchers and start-ups under one roof. One-third of the 235,000-square-foot building hosts Cornell Tech studios, labs, classrooms, and event spaces, while the upper levels are dedicated to a mix of technology-focused companies and start-ups. Academics and professionals are connected by the building’s topographic interior consisting of monumental stairs and terraced seating that create a visual link to the exterior amphitheater landscape and frame views of the Manhattan skyline. The indoor terraced lounges, like decks on a boat, are illuminated by sunlight from a glass canopy and reveal panoramic views that connect the community in the Tata Innovation Center to the city beyond.
A central bowtie-shaped gathering space connects each level of the building and features river-to-river views. While most buildings prioritize efficiency with compressed circulation spaces, the Tata Innovation Center inverts the paradigm of efficiency. Here, generously-scaled circulation areas are equipped with lounges and stairways to support meeting spaces. By inviting visitors to the Tata Innovation Center to use stairs rather than elevators, the design also promotes a level of fitness and spontaneous conversations.
The central Tech Gallery—a three-dimensional crossroads—forms the heart of the building. The Gallery’s multi-level lounges, collaboration spaces, and retail areas encourage vibrant dialogue between academics, entrepreneurs, and first-time visitors. The building’s cantilevered southwest and northeast wings shelter outdoor social spaces that animate the ground floor retail spaces and entry terrace.
The building also contributes to Roosevelt Island’s urban community by offering retail spaces and a café at the main level. This public gathering point encourages provides a space for interaction between the island’s permanent residents, tech employees, researchers, and those visiting the island for the first time.
Anticipating environmental challenges such as sea level rise and flood risk, The Tata Innovation Center is designed for maximum resilience. The entry floor rises seven feet above the 100-year flood level with additional protections against major storm events. Although the building’s exterior appears to be completely transparent, the enclosure is 60% opaque and 40% transparent—a ratio considered to be the “sweet spot” for sustainable design. The high-performance curtain wall, with transparent and shadow box units, minimizes heat gain and supports a comprehensive daylight harvesting system that reduces artificial lighting consumption, which, for most buildings, accounts for the highest energy usage. In addition, the hyper-efficient truss design creates nearly column-free interiors for maximum flexibility. A canopy featuring 24,000 square feet of solar panels shelters the building’s landscaped roof terrace and defines its silhouette, further signaling the campus-wide commitment to sustainability. Envisioned as a crystalline incubator, The Tata Innovation Center establishes a catalytic setting for research and innovation.
WEISS/MANFREDI, Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism was founded by Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi. Their work expands the definition of architecture by connecting the territories of art, architecture, infrastructure, and ecology to create new public realms. Their projects, which include the Seattle Art Museum: Olympic Sculpture Park, University of Pennsylvania’s Nanotechnology Center, and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Visitor Center, construct reciprocal relationships between city and nature, architecture and infrastructure. WEISS/MANFREDI was honored with the Academy Award for Architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Harvard’s International VR Green Urban Design Award, the New York AIA Gold Medal of Honor, and exhibitions at the Museum of Modem Art, the Venice Architecture Biennale, the Cooper Hewitt Museum, and the Guggenheim Museum. Current projects include the US Embassy in New Delhi, India and Artis-Naples, the multidisciplinary arts complex in Florida.
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