New York’s Cornell University Library


Following an 18-month renovation of the historic Rand Hall at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, the ‘Mui Ho Fine Arts Library’ opened in August 2019. The redesigned space was designed by architect Wolfgang Tschapeller, whose goal for the project was ‘a 21st-century interpretation of the grand reading rooms associated with great research collections’. The project involved removing the existing building’s third floor, with the renovated library now comprising four levels of massed stacks with books suspended as a centerpiece.

Following Wolfgang Tschapeller’s renovation, the ground floor of Cornell University’s Rand Hall is now a material practice center that includes wood, metal, and digital fabrication shops, a maker space, a research lab, and a small-tool repository. The first library level includes book stacks, an open reading room with flexible and collaborative workspaces, 18 individual study carrels for focused research, public computing and output devices, circulation desks, and direct access to the L. P. Kwee Studios in Milstein Hall.

Further book stacks are found on the second library level, alongside a seminar room for classes, meetings, and collaboration, and librarian offices. The third level contains yet more book stacks, a display area, and a reading room, which all overlook the expansive spaces below. The second and third floors are now a single open volume that continues almost the entire length of the space.

The envelope of Rand Hall, which opened in 1911, also required extensive rehabilitation, with other upgrades including the addition of thermal installation, double-glazed windows, and the replacement of all mechanical systems. It is forecast that this will result in a projected 70% reduction of Rand Hall’s energy use. Wolfgang Tschapeller, who studied architecture at Cornell, currently leads the institute of art and architecture in Vienna, in addition to his own firm.

Designed and constructed to be fully ADA compliant, the library’s design plans were reviewed by the City of Ithaca’s Director of Code Enforcement before construction. To aid individuals with mobility issues, all levels of the stacks have elevator access. The grated floors in the stacks can accommodate individuals with wheelchairs, canes, and other similar assistive devices. The library also offers a paging service for all its visitors, whereby library staff retrieves books upon the patron’s request.

The Mui Ho Fine Arts Library offers an ever-expanding collection of materials on architecture, art, city and regional planning, landscape architecture, and photography in various formats and in multiple languages. Growing by approximately 4,000 titles each year, the full collection comprises more than 267,000 volumes and subscriptions to more than 850 periodical titles.

Instinct Furniture BLOG, mostly about cool libraries, furniture and design – keeping you abreast of our world. (Source: Designboom. Images by Hukas Schaller)