Cornell Tech is a new campus for technology on New York’s Roosevelt Island. Located in the East River between Midtown Manhattan and Long Island City, the graduate school is poised to become a global center for collaboration and innovation.
The digital age is making it easier, faster and cheaper to develop new products and services than ever before. Cornell Tech is building a diverse environment of academics and practitioners who excel at imagining, researching and building digitally-enabled products and services to directly address societal and commercial needs.
The wayfinding and site identity were created to be contemporary, enduring and integral to the campus spirit of innovation. With expansive views, a series of green public spaces and a seamless integration of indoor and outdoor areas, the 12-acre site is one of the most environmentally friendly and energy efficient campuses in the world.
Pentagram worked closely with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, who developed the campus masterplan, and James Corner Field Operations, who created the landscape design. The compact, river-to-river campus is organized along the Tech Walk, a car-free pathway and central spine that links the three buildings of the development’s first phase.
From the earliest stages of the project, the Pentagram team collaborated with Cornell, the urban planners and architects to create a holistic approach to the site. Pentagram also spent a considerable amount of time with Cornell’s planning team and visited Cornell University’s Ithaca campus to better understand the navigational and information needs of students, faculty and visitors.
The Cornell Tech signage system is organized around a series of vertical totems that seamlessly integrate into an environment both urban and park. The totems acknowledge Cornell with a dimensional and highly recognizable “C” shape. The signs are sized to work at human scale and carefully modulated to minimally impact the visual landscape, complementing the geometric architecture of the campus and evoking nearby skyscrapers, without getting in the way of fantastic views. Directories are designed to be easily updated as the campus continues to expand.
The “C” shape extends to an entrance landmark in Tech Plaza, a large sculptural monogram fabricated of perforated stainless steel. As people move around the “C” and look into the mesh surface, a layered moiré pattern is revealed, a dynamic optical effect achieved without digital means. In the evening, the marker is lit from within, glowing in the landscape. The Cornell University seal is embedded in the ground at the center of the “C.”
Cornell Tech’s academic environment and supporting graphic program have helped define and encourage an open, sharing and collaborative environment and, consequently, it’s been successful and uniquely distinctive for Cornell.
Michael Gericke (partner in charge), Don Bilodeau (project director), Elizabeth Kim (senior designer), Amanda Walter (project coordinator)
Morphosis, Weiss/Manfredi (architects); James Corner Field Operations (landscape architect)