Absurd / Everyday Campus
selected for Retrospecta 39
program: Cornell Tech campus
location: Roosevelt Island, New York City, USA
advisors: Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi with Britton Rogers
Expanding on the corporate pastoral ideal dating back to mid-century America, tech campuses of today organize tours, host conferences, oversee hotels, and manage public parks. Combining life and labor, many also provide game rooms, in-house childcare, and daily dinners for employees’ families. While outsiders see these amenities as absurdities, employees view them as part of the everyday culture in the world of technology.
This design for a new Cornell Tech campus is prompted by its potential to be simultaneously absurd and quotidian. Through a series of endless loops, each crafted to serve a specific user type, the campus celebrates the desire to keep workers in the office longer and promotes the campus as a tourist destination.
By also including revenue-spinning programs such as a hotel and convention center, the campus aspires to appeal primarily to its board members while placing itself squarely in the middle of contemporary discourse on workplace ethics and the silo-like nature of tech companies. Visitors are called upon to use the project as a way to locate their own views of such corporations and the corporations’ role in modern life.
The formal exuberance attempts to communicate the campus’s heterotopic spaces and gives image to a project that aims to emblematize the East Coast’s new status as an innovation hub. Despite being formally discrete from the rest of New York City, the new Cornell Tech campus latches onto Manhattan’s history as an urban incubator, proposing a type of contextualism based on a shared vision of advancing the metropolis while integrating itself with the city through numerous urban linkages.