Columbia University unveiled the first building in its new Manhattanville campus on Monday, the cornerstone of a controversial development project that will eventually reshape much of West Harlem. Our education reporter, Lindsey Christ, has the story.
There will soon be a new view from this elevated stretch of the one train, north of 125th street. Riders will be able to look into laboratories where scientists work to understand the human mind.
"It's going to be a thriving center, arguably the greatest center in the Western Hemisphere for things to do with mind and brain and neuroscience."
The 450,000-square foot Jerome L. Greene Science Center is the first building in Columbia University's new Manhattanville Campus. 800 people will do research and teach here — beginning this spring.
The sun-drenched fishbowl was designed by noted architect Renzo Piano to be porous, open to the community, especially an expansive public first floor, including a wellness center offering free health screenings, interactive exhibits on the mysteries of the mind and an education lab with free programing for children.
"This new concept for a university, of course you have to accept that everything must be open and accessible," Piano said. "There are no gates here."
Upstairs, the labs are designed to encourage scientific collaboration, and outreach.
The occupants of these buildings will be able to look out and know where they are, know that they are part of a larger urban community as opposed to a cloistered campus.
The welcoming design of the building is party a reaction to opposition Columbia faced expanding to this neighborhood north of West 125th Street. Some nearby businesses unsuccessfully sued, challenging the use of eminent domain to buy 17 acres here.
"This is the beginning of a building process that will continue over the next several decades — eventually including 6.8 million square feet of new academic space at an estimate cost of $6.3 billion."
Piano, who also designed the new Whitney Museum, said this was a particularly challenging project.
"Making building is complicated," Piano said. "Especially when you make public building like this, especially when you try to make a new campus, the campus of the 21-century."