Architecture as Pedagogy

How The Milstein Center transformed the campus experience for students and faculty at Barnard College.

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A distinguished zinc and glass addition to the campus skyline, The Milstein Center is built on a long-underutilized section of the compact urban campus and encourages interaction between students and faculty inside and out. Photo © Magda Biernat
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The Milstein Center is organized as two communities stacked on top of each other, one for students and the other for faculty. Inside the library, a signature stairwell leads users up from the ground floor to quieter, more book-centric spaces. Photo © Magda Biernat
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Outdoor spaces play a critical role in the Milstein Center’s vibrancy, with terraces on the second, third, and fourth floors. As part of the project, Lehman Lawn was slightly elevated in order create a more accessible and connected campus entrance. Photo © Magda Biernat
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Meredith Bostwick-Lorenzo Eiroa meets with Barnard students on the campus lawn. Photo © Asiya Khaki
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The Movement Lab is one of the center’s several academic centers helping students explore new ways of learning. Photo © Magda Biernat
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In coordination with Barnard’s head librarian, recalls Colin Koop, the team “transformed the library from a storehouse of knowledge to an engaged environment and that influenced the final design.” Image © SOM
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Photo © Magda Biernat

The building needed to be clearly something of Barnard while also inviting Columbia students to come in and collaborate.

Meredith: Columbia has more than fifteen different libraries on its campus plus its affiliates, so the real question became how to create a library that is a part of that inter-institutional network but also distinctive, and completely new. As a place, it needed to be clearly something of Barnard, while also inviting Columbia students to come in and collaborate. Just last year, I was walking through the campus at the one year anniversary of The Milstein’s completion, and some of the faculty who helped us shape the program for The Milstein Center came up to me to say that Columbia students are coming to study “on our” campus now! For the first time in Barnard’s history, Columbia students are coming to Barnard’s library to study, relax, or just to find respite from the rigors of being a student in New York City. That’s quite special.

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“Columbia students are coming to Barnard’s library to study, relax, or just to find respite from the rigors of being a student in New York City,” says Meredith Bostwick-Lorenzo Eiroa. “That’s quite special.” Photo © Magda Biernat
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Accessible outdoor spaces on the second, third, and fourth floors of the building also function as sustainable green roofs that help handle stormwater and solar heat gain. Photo © Magda Biernat
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Maker space. Photo © Magda Biernat
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Informal collaboration workspaces inside The Milstein Center. Photo © Magda Biernat

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We are a collective of architects, designers, engineers, and planners building a better future. To learn more, visit www.som.com.

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