We don’t usually think of libraries as provocative places, but Cornell University‘s new Fine Arts Library (FAL) is causing quite a stir. Characterized by massive walls of books in a cavernous, light-filled space, the redesign by Vienna-based architect Wolfgang Tschapeller will essentially lop off the top of the school’s iconic Rand Hall building so that the soaring stacks can jut through dramatically. While architecture college leaders are excited about updating the 104-year-old campus icon, the project is also getting a lot of criticism from those who feel the expansion is too extreme.

Continue reading below
Our Featured Videos

Cornell university, fine arts library, college of architecture at cornell, aap cornell, wolfgang tschapeller, mui ho, cornell library expansion, rand hall renovation

Built in 1912, Rand Hall has been a campus fixture from the start. The FAL was moved into the hall in 2011, taking up the topmost floor of the three-story building. The ground level is home to College of Architecture, Art and Planning (AAP) studios and classrooms, while the second floor is often used for exhibits and events.

The massive $6 million expansion project will be funded by Berkeley, California–based architect Mui Ho, who is a Cornell alum. Tschapeller, who also graduated from the school, was named to lead the project.

Related: OMA’s green-roofed Milstein Hall unifies Cornell’s architecture school into one stunning structure

Reception of the project news has been divided. AAP leaders are touting the plan as a boon to the architecture college and a benefit to the campus as a whole. “It will be a light-filled, 21st century library, glowing from behind the large industrial windows of Rand Hall — a perfect metaphor for conserving the old while erecting the new,” said Kent Kleinman, dean of the AAP, when the endowment was announced in 2013.

Meanwhile, architects and students criticize the design as being too single-tasked and extravagant. Jonathan Ochshorn told the Cornell Daily Sun that the redesigned hall will be a “bespoke artifact that will become — when the library proves obsolete in the near future — unusable for anything else unless the whole thing is re-configured again at great expense.”

Rand Hall was threatened with demolition several years ago, but was ultimately saved when Milstein Hall was built. That building was designed by OMA and opened in 2011.

Construction of the expansion is expected to begin in 2016.

+ Cornell University

+ Wolfgang Tschapeller

Via Metalocus

Images via Wolfgang Tschapeller and Wikipedia