A site narrative for a new Fine Arts Library in Rand Hall at Cornell University was submitted by Architect Wolfgang Tschapeller (Dec. 2014) as part of his 100% Schematic Design proposal. I've written about it on my blog. Aside from demolishing much of the building's interior structure, the proposal also removes a useful and innocuous egress stair (added to the building's east facade in the late 1960s) because, according to Tschapeller, the stair destroys the "urban relationship of the building, architectural integrity as well as orientation of spaces in Rand Hall."
It is certainly possible to dislike this stair tower, but Tschapeller's claims are a bit overblown: the building is unfortunately sited, with or without the added stair; the so-called architectural integrity of Rand Hall is hardly affected by the stair (scroll down to see my photos of Rand Hall and its stair tower) and is, instead, severely compromised by the architect's own interventions; and the "orientation of spaces" inside the building has nothing to do with the location of the stair, which is outside the building proper. In fact, the stair was, and is, a perfectly reasonable response to the need for a second means of egress in a building designed and constructed with only a single way out. With or without the stair tower, Rand Hall was not originally intended to create a dramatic and symbolic "gateway" from North Campus. Rather, it was built as an addition to a group of temporary engineering structures (including the forge shop and foundry placed north of the Sibley College of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanical Arts, where the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning now has a home) extending along University Avenue behind the more formal stone-faced Arts Quad buildings.
In 1912, Rand Hall was intended to be the first in a series of industrial-type buildings structures built along University Avenue to replace those "temporary" industrial-type buildings (the Foundry still remains), but those plans never materialized. Either way, it is clear that Rand Hall occupies an awkward spot on the Cornell campus, filling in a patch of real estate that had never before been intended as a site for a building.
So, back to the stair tower. Is it really so horrible that it should be removed at great expense, while necessitating the construction of new interior stairs that not only would take up valuable interior floor space (including in the first-floor shop), but would also make it necessary to punch two new exit doors through the south and east facades and, in so doing, damage the rhythm and pattern of Rand Hall's masonry openings — a problem that the East Stair Tower more effectively resolves. I walked around Rand Hall the other day and documented exactly what this stair looks like from various points of view. Mainly, it's not even visible. The alleged "gateway" view from the Thurston Avenue Bridge (image 5 in the map below) is a myth: one can see neither the stair nor any of the college buildings from that vantage point.
See my related writings on the library proposal.
© 2015 J. Ochshorn. All rights reserved. Photos of Rand Hall taken August 2, 2015 by Jonathan Ochshorn. First posted August 2, 2015. Last updated October 21, 2015.