Physical Sciences Building

Published 9-27-2011
  • Old and new...

    The renovated portico provides access to the north entry of Baker Lab and Baker Atrium rear, which connects to Clark Hall. INSET: Original north portico with steps leading down to Clark Plaza now the location of the Physical Sciences Building.

    ©Photo courtesy of ESTO. Photography by Jeff Goldberg

  • Exterior

    The new Cornell Physical Sciences Building connects Baker Lab left, Clark Hall rear, and Rockefeller Hall right. The centralized facility creates new shared spaces, including a garden, and provides horizontal links at multiple levels between the buildings.

    ©Photo courtesy of ESTO. Photography by Jeff Goldberg

The new Physical Sciences Building at Cornell University is aimed at catalyzing interdisciplinary research in nanoscale science, x-ray and accelerator physics, chemical biology and biological physics.

It complements three existing Physical Science facilities on campus: the 1921-built Baker Lab Building; the 1960s-built Clark Hall; and Rockefeller Hall, designed in 1904 by the renowned Beaux-Arts architects, Carrere and Hastings. Cornell has been reluctant to demolish buildings and has repeatedly renovated and found new uses for legacy buildings. The campus includes many registered historic places and its 20th century buildings have earned architectural acclaim. Given the rich history of Cornell’s buildings, every aspect of the Physical Sciences Building’s development was meticulously considered.

The building will accommodate 15 to 20 research groups in the departments of Physics, Chemistry and Chemical Biology, and Applied and Engineering Physics. The first floor of the new building will be devoted to undergraduate learning, and it will house nine state-of-the-art teaching laboratories for coursework in chemistry, physics and applied and engineering physics. It includes more than 80 research and teaching laboratories, a 120-seat auditorium, and new meeting, dining and gathering spaces. The eight-story atrium was designed to bring departments and people together with ample natural lighting and a cafe.

The building will also include the Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science, an interdisciplinary center for imaging and controlling nanoscale systems.

With tie-ins to the three existing buildings, MEP was a challenge from the beginning. Mechanical rooms and switchgear, located in the sub-basement of Clark Hall had to connect to the basement through a new utilities tunnel. Some existing MEP had to be demolished and reinstalled. The mechanical subcontractor designed the system in CADPIPE software and was able to pre-fabricate some components, saving time and money.

Even given the high energy consumption of a laboratory facility, the new addition received LEED Gold certification for environmental responsibility. Efficient MEP features, building control sequences with aggressive setbacks, intelligent use of natural light, including shade, a rain garden, and a natural irrigation system for providing water to the newly planted trees at Rockefeller Plaza all helped to achieve LEED certification.

The Physical Sciences Building occupies the old Clark Plaza, a space that initially provided 139,000 gross square feet at ground level. A basement and multiple levels expand the square footage to 196,400 gross square feet. Clark Plaza became the first choice over the available 329,400-gross-square-foot Newman Hall because of Clark Plaza’s central location. The additional square footage is allocated to the following: shared space - 2,620, Physics LASSP - 13,500, Physics LEPP - 19,160, AEP - 18,460, AEP TLabs - 6,880, Chemistry TLabs - 7,740, Chemistry Community - 900, Chemical Biology - 14,460, Synthetic Chemistry - 3,330, Physical Chemistry - 3,560 and miscellaneous - 3,310.

Koetter Kim & Associates
Architect - Associate
Architect of Record
McCarthy Building Companies Inc.
Heitmann and Associates, Inc.
Consultant - Curtain Wall
Larch Bates
Consultant - Elevator
Consultant - Engineer
Sladen Feinstein
Consultant - Lighting
Engineer - MEP
Engineer - Fire Protection
Thornton Tomasetti
Engineer - Structural