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Bill & Melinda Gates Hall – Cornell University

Designed by world-renowned architecture firm Morphosis and its design director, Pritzker Prize-winner Thom Mayne, the new 100,000-square foot Gates Hall will provide a base for more than 60 core CIS faculty members, The building, which is on track to be LEED Gold certified, features open workspaces and abundant natural light, intended to inspire collaboration and creativity.

Bill-Melinda-Gates-Hall-Cornell-University-By-Morphosis-Architects-04-Roland-Halbe-759x568 Bill & Melinda Gates Hall, Cornell University / Morphosis Architects

© Roland Halbe

  • One of the newest additions to our Cornell campus is Bill & Melinda Gates Hall. The new building is home to Cornell’s CIS departments, which consist of Computer Science, Information Science, and Statistics. The building mission is to combine technology and research.
Bill-Melinda-Gates-Hall-Cornell-University-By-Morphosis-Architects-05-Roland-Halbe-759x568 Bill & Melinda Gates Hall, Cornell University / Morphosis Architects

© Roland Halbe

Located on Campus Road across from Barton Hall and built on the former Hoy North parking lot, the Gates building brings together computer science, information science and statistical science units in a sleek yet industrial space.

Since the building’s opening this past August, the programs offered within the CIS departments have reached thousands of Cornellians, across multiple colleges. The new building was completely funded with no additional debt before ground broke in April 2013. The Bill & Melinda Foundation generously donated $25 million to start the project and another $60 million was funded through donors from almost every Cornell college. CIS associates stressed the need for open, well-lit, and collaborative space, so the world-renowned architecture firm, Morphosis Architects was contracted.

Bill-Melinda-Gates-Hall-Cornell-University-By-Morphosis-Architects-10-Roland-Halbe-895x1200 Bill & Melinda Gates Hall, Cornell University / Morphosis Architects

© Roland Halbe

Morphosis Architects, founded by Thom Mayne, is known for its innovative and iconic buildings. Overlooking the Hoy Baseball Field, CIS students have glass box-seats to every game. This iconic 101,455 square foot building is also very focused on sustainability. Gates Hall is LEED Gold certified and making an effort to be as green as possible. As a relatively young program—a 14-year-old college-level interdisciplinary program—CIS has flourished.

The Cornell CIS departments, have stated their bold mission, “to be the national model for education and research that supports the information economy,” and Bill & Melinda Gates Hall is giant leap forward to achieving that goal.

Bill-Melinda-Gates-Hall-Cornell-University-By-Morphosis-Architects-15-Roland-Halbe-899x1200 Bill & Melinda Gates Hall, Cornell University / Morphosis Architects

© Roland Halbe

Design Features:

  • The distinctive exterior is shingled with jutting stainless-steel panels. The interior of the building mixes glass walls and polished concrete floors with high, exposed ceilings, expansive atriums and plenty of open space. It’s an aesthetic that Amy Gergely, director of external relations for CIS, describes as “very Silicon Valley,” akin to the Google and Yahoo headquarters.
  • The building, with its abundant work nooks and transparent walls, is designed to encourage as much overlap between the disciplines as possible.
Bill-Melinda-Gates-Hall-Cornell-University-By-Morphosis-Architects-21-A.-Zahner-Co.-800x1200 Bill & Melinda Gates Hall, Cornell University / Morphosis Architects

© A. Zahner Co.

“One of the big factors was we wanted to have these areas where people and students and faculty could get together at will. That’s a big focus for this department,” Senior Project Manager John Keefe said. “Computer science and information sciences are really, really different. Computer science is the coding and stuff like that, whereas information science focuses more on the impact of the computer in society. Bringing those two together is a really interesting idea.”

Bill-Melinda-Gates-Hall-Cornell-University-By-Morphosis-Architects-23-A.-Zahner-Co.-759x427 Bill & Melinda Gates Hall, Cornell University / Morphosis Architects

© A. Zahner Co.

  • That conceptual aesthetic applies even to the placement of the building’s two staircases, each located at opposite ends of the rectangular structure to encourage more foot traffic in the halls. The building’s elevators are discreetly tucked away in contrast to the wide, monumental stairs. And the whole building community shares a single mailroom for the same reason.
  • The glass walls allow anyone to see directly into conference rooms and Ph.D students’ work areas. Faculty office spaces are all the same size to create a sense of egalitarianism. While the building contains a lecture hall, a seminar room and some classrooms, it is mostly dedicated to dry labs.
  • The building also takes a unique approach in conserving energy. The rooms are cooled with chilled beams full of running cold water and are heated with hot water piped along the base of the windows, eliminating the need for large air handlers, Keefe said.
  • The building, which overlooks Cornell’s varsity baseball field, was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne and his firm, Morphosis.
Bill-Melinda-Gates-Hall-Cornell-University-By-Morphosis-Architects-25-Roland-Halbe-759x568 Bill & Melinda Gates Hall, Cornell University / Morphosis Architects

© Roland Halbe

Morphosis Architects:

Gates Hall at Cornell University brings together the school’s Computing Science and Information Science departments in a new joint facility designed to generate collaboration and spontaneous discourse between the disciplines. Through various strategies amplifying visibility, transparency, and social interaction, the new building interprets the departments’ shared educational mission to “integrate computing and information science—its ideas, technology, and modes of thought—into every academic field.”

Bill-Melinda-Gates-Hall-Cornell-University-By-Morphosis-Architects-34-Roland-Halbe-759x568 Bill & Melinda Gates Hall, Cornell University / Morphosis Architects

© Roland Halbe

Neighboring the historic Barton Hall and Hoy Field, Gates Hall re-energizes a previously underutilized campus corner, creating a new campus gateway and frontage. Surfaced in vibrant stainless steel panels, the building’s cantilevered entry canopy covers an outdoor plaza and student social space also defined by native landscaping and sculptural forms. The performative steel skin wraps the exterior façade in an angular weave, shading interior classrooms and creating a continuously dynamic and transformative surface. Advanced digital modeling tools used in designing the pattern, geometry, and details of the skin speak to the profound impact of computing on the arts and sciences.

Bill-Melinda-Gates-Hall-Cornell-University-By-Morphosis-Architects-36-A.-Zahner-Co.-800x1200 Bill & Melinda Gates Hall, Cornell University / Morphosis Architects

© A. Zahner Co.

The building program is organized to foster serendipitous social and academic exchanges, extending education beyond traditional classroom settings. Primary circulation is organized around a glazed atrium on the west side of the building where a full-height glass facade, skylights, and interior envelope of fritted glass reveal a nexus of activity on all floors. Ringed with informal study and collaborative spaces, the atrium provides literal and visible connections across disciplines. Encounters and impromptu charettes are facilitated by regular alcove spaces in the corridors, where the floor-to-ceiling glazing lining classrooms and offices becomes a transforming canvas for graphics, blackboard equations, and casual notes.

Bill-Melinda-Gates-Hall-Cornell-University-By-Morphosis-Architects-41-Cornell-University-759x427 Bill & Melinda Gates Hall, Cornell University / Morphosis Architects

© Cornell University

Gates Hall’s integrated sustainability systems express Cornell’s commitment to environmental stewardship, using multiple strategies to create healthier environments, reduce energy consumption, and preserve natural resources. Designed for ample daylight penetration, Gates Hall employs openness and transparency to create work environments that are more healthful for students, both physically and mentally. The high-performance glass façade, perforated metal shading screens, and mechanical system using campus lake-source cooling contribute to Gates Hall achieving 30% lower energy usage than a typical academic building. To decrease the environmental impact of construction, local/regional, recycled and renewable building materials are used throughout the building.

Bill-Melinda-Gates-Hall-Cornell-University-By-Morphosis-Architects-48-Roland-Halbe-759x434 Bill & Melinda Gates Hall, Cornell University / Morphosis Architects

© Roland Halbe

Project Data:

Project name: Bill & Melinda Gates Hall
Location: Campus Rd, Ithaca, New York 14853, United States
Coordinates: 42.445023, -76.480834
Type: University
Program: Academic building with lecture hall, offices, conference rooms, seminar room, dry labs, and collaborative spaces
Project Area: 101,455 gross sq.ft / 9,425 gross sqm
Site Area: 1.3 acres / 0.5 hectares
Design Year: 2010 – 2011
Construction Year: 2012 – 2014
Status: Completed
Cost: $60 million
Completion Year: January 2014


  • 2014 – The American Institute of Architect (AIA Awards) – AIA Los Angeles Awards – Design Merit Award
  • 2014 – LEED Awards – – certification goal – Gold

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Cornell University
Architects: Morphosis Architects – 153 W 27th St #1200, New York, NY 10001, United States
Design Director: Thom Mayne
Project Principal: Ung-Joo Scott Lee
Project Manager: Ung-Joo Scott Lee
Project Architect: Ted Kane
Project Designer: Jean Oei
Project Team: Cory Brugger, Debbie Chen, Paul Choi, Nicolas Fayad, Kerenza Harris, Alayne Kaethler, Edmund Kwong, Matt Lake, Simon McGown, Go-Woon Seo, Nick Shrier, Satoru Sugihara, Suzanne Tanascaux
Project Assistant: Vivian Chen, Stuart Franks, Jeff Gilway, Penny Herscovitch, Pavlo Kryvozub, Kyung-Eun Lee, Nicole Meyer, Shin Park, Yugin Sim, Alan Tai
Visualization: Jasmine Park, Josh Sprinkling, Sam Tannenbaum
Fire Protection: Syska Hennessy Group, Inc
Structural Engineer: Thornton Tomasetti Group, Inc.
MEP Engineer: Syska Hennessy Group, Inc
Civil Engineer: Code Consultants Professional Engineers, P.C.
Specifications: Construction Specifications
Geotechnical Engineer: John P. Stopen Engineering, LLP
Lighting: Syska Hennessy Group, Inc
Acoustical Consultant: Shen Milsom & Wilke, Inc.
Code Consultant: Code Consultants Professional Engineers, P.C.
General Contractor: Welliver
Landscape Architect: Code Consultants Professional Engineers, P.C., Morphosis
Cost Estimator: Davis Langdon
Audiovisual/IT Consultant: Shen Milsom & Wilke, Inc.
Facade Consultant: Thornton Tomasetti Group, Inc.
Construction Management: Welliver
Sustainability: Davis Langdon
Text Description: © Courtesy of Morphosis Architects, Cornell University, Welliver, A. Zahner Co., Benjamin Hearns
Images: © Morphosis Architects, Cornell University, Roland Halbe, A. Zahner Co.


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