Barnard College Nexus Competition

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Our goal in designing the Nexus was to respond to Barnard College's desire to create 'the center of daily campus life' for all constituencies of the institution. The proposal was initiated as part of a three-firm invited design competition. It pays careful attention to the conditions and potentials of its New York location in several ways: by emphasizing connectivity among all its parts as well as between them and the rest of its Barnard campus context; by developing an architectural vocabulary that provides both unity of design and particular individualized episodes; and by aiming at an equilibrium between the socializing forces that energize its programmatic components and the individual's need for privacy and repose.

While the Nexus project's general site envelope was predetermined by the Barnard context and by city height restrictions and setbacks, the particular opportunities and adjacencies that the site affords were the key generators of the building's organization, and they define the Nexus's most important spaces. For example, a large open 'cut' through the new building establishes a strong visual connection between Broadway and Barnard's north-south pedestrian spine. The main entrance and important social spaces are strategically positioned within this transverse swath. Similarly, an independent entry stair serving the library spills onto the bustling north-south axis, inviting library-goers in and establishing a strong connection with the rest of campus. Within the building similar connections occur. A lobby and grand staircase activate an underutilized corner of campus, while reinforcing connections to Broadway; the building's glazed central spaces (lounges on multiple levels, the cafeteria's seating areas, the multi-purpose room) link to the main lawn; the 'Hearth,' a totem-like structure, pierces through and organizes the building vertically becoming a recognizable central hub and purveyor of information. Thus, the Nexus is both an extroverted and introverted building, one that generates a dynamic and engaging gravitational force and a pulsating and vibrant new entity on campus.

Year: 2003
Barnard College
New York, NY

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