New Law & Business Schools Building

Completed January 1999

This building, which will be located on the corner of Amsterdam & 115th, will contain classrooms for Columbia's Law and Business Schools. Although the contextual and historically sensitive design, which will resemble Columbia's original campus buildings, is admirable, the building unfortunately will not have any retail spaces on street level, which will make Amsterdam Avenue even more lifeless than it already is. This is despite protests from the community and the fact that if it were a residential or commercial building the zoning laws would require that it have retail.

The main administration of Columbia is sympathetic to our request, but the Dean of the Business School, Meyer Feldberg, is determined to have no retail or dining in his new building. We encourage you to e-mail him with persuasive comments. He is so opposed to food service that he has even proposed getting rid of the deli in the Business School's current building! He has argued that the schools need all the square footage, but the space problems could easily be solved if they would do away with a wasteful, glitzy atrium and empty lobby that are planned.

Columbia Daily Spectator , the undergraduate newspaper of the University, has published an editorial about this building with which we heartily concur. The Bottom Line, the student newspaper at the Business School, has also published a more detailed editorial about how the Business School is shooting itself in the foot by not putting a 24-hour eating establishment in this building. It seems that the B-School is desperately short of agreeable socializing and eating space. In light of the planned closing of the College Inn, the only 24-hour establishment currently open in the neighborhood, this concern is even more acute.

Our only aesthetic quibbles: first, the odd flattened arch-like structure on the fourth floor of the Amsterdam side, which has no precedent in Columbia 's traditional architecture. Second, it is arguable that a building on this site should seek to look like the apartment buildings that surround Columbia, and not like an intrusion of the campus beyond its legitimate boundaries. Such an intrusion violates the harmony and integrity of the neighborhood and undermines the carefully cultivated distinctiveness of the campus proper. Below is a rendering and a picture of the completed building. Here is Columbia's own story about this project.

COMPLETION UPDATE: This building looks considerably weirder in the flesh than in the architect's drawing above, a standing lesson for the community about trusting architect's renderings. It has all sorts of hidden postmodern quirks, like odd stonework and a vast sloping window running up the entire south facade, that give it an unsettling appearance that worsens the already unfriendly feel of this section of Amsterdam Avenue. It also has a huge and bulbous green roof not shown in the design rendering. The architect seems to be saying, "I can build a nominally contextual building and still work in enough po-mo hat-tricks to keep my reputation among architectural intellectuals."

Enough fun and games: this is a neighborhood and we have to live with what gets built.

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