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Syracuse Center of Excellence

Toshiko Mori Architect

Syracuse Center of Excellence
By Raymund Ryan -

Syracuse is one of several U.S. cities searching for a viable future after the demise of its traditional industries. When visiting this city in Upper New York State you immediately sense as in Pittsburgh or Buffalo or Detroit economic erosion, fractured architectural ambition, and the relative absence of residents. That’s fundamentally bad news. The good news however if that many such cities have progressive universities, engines for culture and technology, and a post-industrial fabric of abandoned factories, nascent lofts and abundant open space, a low-cost alternative to New York, Boston or San Francisco for today’s highly mobile artists, researchers and entrepreneurs.
Syracuse’s rise in the early 19th century was due to its position on the Erie Canal, a vital artery linking the Hudson River, and thus New York, to the Great Lakes, Canada and the American Midwest. The urban core of Syracuse remains as a set of proud stone buildings gathered about a large square, a civic hub once bisected by a segment of the canal. Filled-in in 1925 to create Erie Boulevard, this now suppressed vector extends east as one thread in the rectilinear city grid, a grid subsequently overlaid by a system of raised freeways. Today a new building, the Syracuse Center of Excellence, rises from this flat, post-industrial landscape to herald a modest renaissance for the city.
Designed by Toshiko Mori from New York City, the Syracuse Center of Excellence is a strategic satellite of Syracuse University whose main campus sits in comparative isolation on a nearby hillside. Adjacent to Interstate 81 and an elevated interchange with Interstate 690, the building stretches across the ground plane and cranks in plan before rising to present a hovering, skinny and splayed façade to passing motorists. The building has thus characteristics of environmental sculpture, establishing the generous ramp as a plinth or springboard for the building proper. One might consider the primary floor and roof...

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