In October 2018, Barnard College celebrated the grand opening of The Cheryl and Philip Milstein Center for Teaching and Learning, the new hub of academic and intellectual life on the College’s campus in New York City. The 128,000-square-foot building, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM), is a new place of interdisciplinary scholarship and a new epicenter of undergraduate learning serving both Barnard and Columbia University students, at the heart of Barnard College’s Morningside Heights campus.
"SOM designed The Milstein Center to serve as a crossroads for the campus, community, and its New York City partners—a place where students and faculty across disciplines can learn through doing, engage in robust dialogue, and visualize ideas," said SOM Senior Consulting Design Partner Roger Duffy. "We worked closely with the Barnard community to create a multi-modal place that supports the college’s interdisciplinary curriculum through studying, creating, sharing, researching, and synthesizing all forms of knowledge and data. And, because higher education is perpetually changing, we integrated new technology and built in the essential flexibility to equip and serve Barnard well into its future."
"The opening of The Milstein Center marks an important milestone for Barnard," said Sian Leah Beilock, President of Barnard College. "Its completion supports the creation of new pathways for learning that build on our foundation of academic excellence and inquiry across disciplines. We are tremendously thankful for the Milsteins’ support of this beautiful building, and for SOM’s innovative design that will inspire students, faculty, staff, alumnae, and friends of the College for years to come."
The Milstein Center is a new kind of library. It celebrates Barnard’s collections and archives, while providing new pedagogical opportunities for faculty and scaffolding new learning experiences for its students. The design infuses a variety of study spaces with opportunities for creative, exploratory learning centers and service points. It provides settings suited to individuals, small teams, and large groups, along with state-of-the-art multimedia centers. The library links all departments and disciplines across the campus—physically, digitally, and philosophically. It is connected to a range of flexible learning spaces, including centers for pedagogy, empirical reasoning, digital humanities, design, and media, as well as a movement lab. Above the library is the Vagelos Computational Science Center, where students and faculty can collaborate on pioneering research in data and computation. Careful lighting design throughout the building combines natural light, programmed lighting scenes, and individual controls to enhance learning environments while contributing to energy savings.
In addition to the library, The Milstein Center provides conference facilities, interdisciplinary workspaces for four academic departments, and a new home for the Athena Center for Leadership Studies and the Barnard Center for Research on Women. The ground floor features a small coffee bar that is open to the public, while the building’s upper stories accommodate faculty offices.
SOM designed The Milstein Center in response to its prominent location overlooking the Lawn—the signature open space on the Barnard campus. The building’s massing, with a five-story base that rises in a series of terraces, maximizes the amount of sunlight that reaches the Lawn throughout the day. These terraces reduce the heat island effect and provide a series of inviting, outdoor spaces for study, contemplation, and connection to nature within the urban campus. On the west side of The Milstein Center, a narrow, eleven-story tower aligns with the neighboring building, Altschul Hall. The skybridge at the fifth floor links the two buildings to connect the Vagelos Computational Science Center with the science-focused spaces inside Altschul Hall. Near the top of The Milstein Center, a cantilevered volume contains a faculty lounge with sweeping views of the Hudson River, the Columbia University campus, and Midtown Manhattan.
Much like the building’s massing, material selections are sensitive to the campus context. The facade uses a rain screen system of patinated zinc panels. With a soft reflectivity and warmth, the zinc harmonizes with the surrounding brick, stone, and concrete buildings. At the same time, the metal facade expresses a contemporary aesthetic that distinguishes The Milstein Center as a building of its time.
Targeting LEED v3 Silver certification, The Milstein Center continues Barnard College’s tradition of sustainable campus construction projects and reinforces the College’s commitment to climate action. The building’s design features support both Barnard’s environmental curriculum and the behavior change programs being enacted by the student body and faculty. Aligned with the College’s vision to build a more sustainable campus and reduce carbon emissions, The Milstein Center is designed to target 15 percent energy cost savings compared to ASHRAE 90.1 2007, 33 percent water savings within the building, 50 percent water savings for landscape irrigation, and 90 percent construction waste diversion.
The Milstein Center embodies the culture of intellectual collaboration and interdisciplinary interchange that defines Barnard College. It creates cross-departmental ties, stimulates global connections, and fosters bonds between students and faculty. This transformative building prepares Barnard for another 125 years of service to women of intellect, ambition, and vision.
About Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) is one of the leading architecture, interior design, engineering, and urban planning firms in the world. Since its founding more than 80 years ago, SOM has earned a reputation for design excellence with a portfolio that includes some of the most important architectural accomplishments of the 20th and 21st centuries, and has been a leader in the research and development of specialized technologies, new processes and innovative ideas, many of which have had a palpable and lasting impact on the design profession and the physical environment. The firm’s longstanding leadership in design and building technology has been honored with nearly 2,000 awards for quality, innovation, and management. The American Institute of Architects has recognized SOM twice with its highest honor, the Architecture Firm Award—in 1962 and again in 1996. The firm maintains offices in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Dubai, and Mumbai.
About Barnard College
Barnard provides a singular educational experience, as a world-renowned liberal arts college with all the academic resources of Columbia University. The City of New York serves as Barnard’s extended classroom. Founded in 1889, Barnard was one of the few colleges in the nation where women could receive the same rigorous and challenging education available to men. Today, Barnard is one of the most selective academic institutions in the country and remains devoted to empowering extraordinary women to become even more exceptional.