Cornell University's Upson Hall

Cornell University's Upson Hall

Courtesy Perkins + Will

Cornell University’s Upson Hall
Architect: Perkins+Will, LTL Architects
Client: Cornell University
Location: Ithaca, New York
Completion Date: 2017

Perkins+Will has been called back to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, to revamp a building it designed in 1956. Alongside LTL Architects and Thornton-Tomasetti, the firm is transforming the 160,000-square-foot, Upson Hall into a 21st century engineering facility. Robert Goodwin of Perkins+Will, who is a Cornell architecture graduate himself, told the Ithaca Voice that the updated Upson Hall will have an “aggregated facade” with textured terracotta and prominent, deep-set windows. The facade is designed to maximize daylight and optimize insulation for those cold Ithaca winters.

To better connect Upson Hall to the engineering campus and to the rest of the school, the design team updates an existing entrance to the quad and creates a new entrance on Hoy Road. It also reorganizes and builds out existing interior space to make the building more functional for students. This includes cutting an opening into the entry hall so students can see the action in the engineering labs on the lower levels. The $63 million renovation also includes new shared spaces, classrooms, labs, and areas for 3D printing.


“In repurposing a post-WWII building, the Upson Hall project transforms a work of international modernism into a highly tuned, site specific building, setting precedent for the rejuvenation of the Engineering Quadrangle,” said Perkins+Will in a statement.

As Goodwin noted, the Perkins+Will connection to Cornell runs much deeper than him alone. The firm’s founders, Lawrence Perkins and Philip Will, both graduated from the university in the 1930s. But despite this history, the present-day firm is not too precious about its dated work at the school. “We are trying to make this a very meaningful building,” Goodwin told AN, “and for us, that means not just the appearance, but the way it performs and how those two things relate together.”

Construction is slated to begin in spring 2015.