New Stars on the Horizon

City College's architecture school features a five-story atrium that illuminates the building with daylight and promotes fluid movement and interaction.

With a transformed architecture school at City College and a new recreation center now open at Brooklyn College, stylish-yet-practical designs for other campuses also are on the drawing board.

The fall semester brought the long-awaited opening of striking new buildings designed by the prominent architect Rafael Viñoly at City College and Brooklyn College - the first new academic buildings at each campus in decades. The University's Board of Trustees, meanwhile, approved a move by the CUNY Law School to spacious new quarters in Long Island City and set in motion the construction of a residence building in East Harlem for the Graduate Center.

City College celebrated the new home of the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture, a 118,000-square-foot building constructed over the framing and foundation of a library built in the 1950s. Viñoly's New York-based firm, renowned for its public and educational buildings throughout the United States and abroad, transformed the structure into a dazzling, multi-functional home for the only public school of architecture in New York City.

The Spitzer school's new home features classrooms, design studios and offices, of course, but also a digital design laboratory, an auditorium and a rooftop amphitheater with unobstructed southward views of Central Park and the skyline of midtown Manhattan. But the centerpiece is a five-story atrium that illuminates the building with daylight from the roof to the ground floor and features an intersecting series of steel staircases and pedestrian bridges. Like many of Viñoly's designs for universities and institutions, the layout promotes fluid movement and interaction of the building's inhabitants.

"With these outstanding new spaces, the University reaffirms its national preeminence for taking complex urban settings and creating higher educational learning environments that are both functional and innovative," said Iris Weinshall, vice chancellor for facilities planning, construction and management. "Our students and faculty deserve spaces that encourage their creative energies because creative energies create knowledge."

Many campuses have already benefited from the University's multi-billion dollar capital construction program and new buildings will open within the next few years at Medgar Evers College, Bronx Community College, John Jay College and Lehman College, among others, the vice chancellor noted.

At City College, Bernard Spitzer, a prominent real estate developer, and his wife, Anne, an adjunct professor of English literature at Manhattan Marymount College, gave $25 million for the architecture school's benefit. The building is City College's first new academic building in over two decades. Bernard Spitzer is an alumnus of CCNY's Class of 1943; Eliot Spitzer, New York's former governor, is their son.

It had been even longer since Brooklyn College opened a new building - 40 years, to be precise - and so it was that some 200 CUNY officials, state and local legislators, faculty and students (including the college's cheerleading squad) gathered to dedicate the college's West Quad Building. In 2001, Viñoly's firm was hired to restore the vision of Brooklyn's 1937 master plan by recreating the west quadrangle as a landscaped space and providing a new home for student services and state-of-the-art physical education and recreational facilities. The old Plaza Building was demolished, replaced by the new four-story glass-and-brick structure with a front lawn that Viñoly describes as an outdoor "living room" for the campus.

Even as two CUNY campuses were celebrating their new buildings, the University's Board of Trustees was approving plans for expansion at two others - in one case moving the campus itself to more spacious quarters. The Trustees on September 29 authorized the relocation of the 26-year-old Law School from Flushing, Queens, to a centrally located building in Long Island City that will give it nearly 70,000 more square feet of space, make it more accessible to students by mass transit and allow the school to offer a new part-time program.

Under the plan approved by the Board, CUNY will own a condominium interest in a 14-story, environmentally "green" building owned by Citigroup at historic Court Square. The Law School will occupy the first six floors, with Citigroup retaining ownership of the upper eight. The move is expected to be completed in time for fall 2011 classes, and it will trigger another relocation and expansion: The Queens College School of Education will move into the Law School's Flushing quarters, which is adjacent to its campus.

The Trustees at the same meeting approved the first step in yet another University construction project: a lease arrangement for a parcel of land in East Harlem that will be the site for a residence building for the Graduate Center. The site, on East 118th Street between Lexington and Third avenues, is adjacent to a new campus for the Hunter College School of Social Work. The $29 million project, also expected to be completed by the fall of 2011, will provide housing primarily for graduate students and CUNY faculty. Plans call for an eight-story building with 77 apartments, ranging from studios to as many as four bedrooms.