Richard Meier & Partners Architects LLP

Cornell University, Weill Hall

Ithaca, New York

2001 - 2008

Weill Hall is the cornerstone of Cornell University’s Genomics Initiative: a campus-wide, faculty-driven research, development, and educational program intended to maintain Cornell’s leading role in the study of life sciences. The building merges biological, physical, engineering, and computational sciences in an effort to further the understanding of the social, legal, ethical, and business aspects of genomics.

Weill Hall supports research collaboration among faculty, students, and scientists from across the university. With a gross area of 263,000 square feet, the building houses research and teaching laboratories, genomic technology services, a distant learning center, and a “business incubator” on four floors above grade, and a substantial basement with a vivarium and plant-controlled environment facilities.

Sited at the western edge of Alumni Field, Weill Hall, along with the buildings on the opposite side of Tower Road, forms an enhanced campus entrance. Master plan studies gave rise to the selection of this site, adjacent to related science facilities, in order to encourage intellectual and physical connectivity. The building respects the scale of the surrounding context and brings existing facilities into an ensemble relationship. Existing pedestrian thoroughfares are also enhanced and integrated with the building’s public spaces.

The layered composition of the building program components results in a linear plan organization, enhancing the quality of interior space through the use of views and natural light. The resulting facade on Alumni Field redefines the open space and brings a new image to the Central Campus of Cornell University.

The design’s innovative approach extends to the emphasis on sustainability and conservation practiced in the design and construction process, earning Weill Hall Gold LEED accreditation. Heat islands are significantly reduced as a result of the water-efficient landscape and roof design; the living roof which covers over 50 percent of the building absorbs rainwater and provides insulation.  The efficient mechanical systems design is projected to save energy more than 40 percent above ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) standards. Motion detectors to regulate light, temperature and air flow were implemented, as were systems to minimize light pollution, water use, and material emissions.  During construction material recycling, indoor air quality management, local and regional material use and certified wood use were prioritized.  On the whole, Weill Hall consumes 30% less energy daily than comparable buildings.