OMA Gosh, What a Disaster! Cornell Professor Pokes Koolhaas

OMA Gosh, What a Disaster! Cornell Professor Pokes Koolhaas

Interior of Rem Koolhaas' Milstein Hall at Cornell. (Unexplained Bacon / Flickr)
Interior of Rem Koolhaas’ Milstein Hall at Cornell. (Unexplained Bacon / Flickr)

Cornell architecture professor Jonathan Oschorn has taken Rem Koolhaas’ Milstein Hall—an expansion of the university’s architecture school—to task in a critique, calling it “by virtually any conceivable objective criterion, a disaster.” While Oschorn admitted that the building possesses great aesthetic interest, his quibbles lie in the project’s functionality. He calls out no less than seven fire safety issues, including that the auditorium only has a single means of egress and that there are no fire walls separating it from the existing buildings that it connects—Sibley and Rand halls.

He takes the LEED system to task, wondering how in the world a building that makes nearly every no-no conceivable in terms of sustainability—such as terrible issues with thermal bridging and a form that maximizes envelope surface area for the floor area—could be awarded a Gold rating. He points out “non structural failure” items, such as a leaking curtain wall and roof, cracked concrete floors, and protruding objects that could be problematic for the visually impaired. Finally, he blasts the building’s lack of flexibility to adapt to future uses.

Oschorn’s review, which is available online, makes for a scintillating read, but it hasn’t won him many friends in Ithaca. In an interview with Enoch Sears of, he admitted, “The architects at Cornell who supervised the construction no longer talk to me.”