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A Cantilevered Milstein?

Apparently now the University is prepared to spend even more money to build a newly reconfigured Milstein. The new design lacks structural supports on the Fall Creek side of University Avenue and raises the "bottom" of the now-cantilevered portion of the building conveniently out of Ithaca's jurisdiction.

As the Ithaca Journal reports:

Rem Koolhaas, the building designer for Milstein Hall, had originally called for the section of building that juts out over University Avenue to be supported by a cantilever, an architectural design where a structure is supported on only one side. For example, balconies are often built with cantilevers.

This design will cost the university millions more dollars than the proposal it took off the table Wednesday night, but it will avoid the problems that have kept members of the Board of Public Works from granting approval for months: University Avenue will not need to be straightened, so the university and BPW will not have to negotiate trading land or easements; there will be no support beams in the sidewalks in the public right of way so the university will not need BPW approval for their placement; and the cantilever design will put the building four inches higher off the ground — 15 feet — which meets all existing state requirements.

Superintendent of Public Works Bill Gray wondered aloud about the financial ramifications of Cornell's decision, for the university and the city.

“Shirley's passing this off as something they can do, and they can do it if they want to pay for it, but to me, this is a much bigger change in the structural arrangement of the building than this conversation indicates,” Gray said. “If they end up spending an awful lot of money that they don't get to use other places on campus, and we don't get the benefit from the road construction and other things, I'm not sure it's the best use of the combined assets of the community.”

Cornell had agreed to repair at its expense a large portion of University Avenue, from the Johnson Museum to the Thurston Avenue bridge. Egan said it is unclear how much if any of the road Cornell will repair with the new design.

When I think of a cantilever, I think of the obnoxious part of Duffield Hall that sits out over the Engineering Quad that undoubtedly cost an extra couple of million dollars to build when the money could have gone to far better uses: like biomedical nanotechnology research to cure cancer.

There's an interesting aspect to the word 'cantilever' -- the words can't and ever are embedded within it.

And with the way both the University and the City of Ithaca are behaving like grown-up babies, it's not surprising that a majority of Cornell community realizes that Milstein can't ever be built.

But MetaEzra would love to hear from some structural engineers on this. A year ago we asserted that building Milstein so close to the lip of a gorge was a dangerous, costly idea. Doesn't a cantilevered design make it even more so? It's not like the University hasn't had experience in this department, what with Court Hall sinking and the north wing of Martha Van needing to be demolished.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on September 13, 2007 (#)

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