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Columbia University to Build 14-Story Glass Tower in Washington Heights

By Carla Zanoni | June 28, 2012 1:42pm
Diller Scofidio + Renfro designed the 14-story tower slated for 104-106 Haven Ave. in Washington Heights.
Diller Scofidio + Renfro designed the 14-story tower slated for 104-106 Haven Ave. in Washington Heights.
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Diller Scofidio + Renfro

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Columbia University will soon break ground on a brand new 14-story medical and graduate building on its medical center campus in the heart of Washington Heights.  

The 100,000-square-foot glass tower was designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the same firm that designed the new Lincoln Center remodeling and the High Line. It's a south-facing undulating pillar of glass and steel with a 11,500-square-foot footprint that tapers to 5,000 square feet as it reaches its apex. 

"In addition to serving as the principal design element for the building, the transparent façade of the study cascade is designed to serve as a visual landmark at the northern limit of Columbia University’s medical campus," reads a public release about the project. 

The structure will contain high-tech classrooms, shared learning spaces and a "modern simulation center" for its students, which school officials say allows for "hands-on" learning. 

The new construction will replace an existing five-story residential building at 104 Haven Ave., between West 171st and 172nd streets, that is owned by the school and now houses medical faculty. 

University officials said the school’s goal is to give 30 to 35 percent of its construction-related contracts and jobs to minority, women and locally-owned businesses. They also touted the job-creation opportunities, including work in the medical simulation lab, facilities, offices and maintenance units, that will be available for locals seeking employment. The school is already the neighborhood's largest employer. 

Although the building is for student use, the southern courtyard that overlooks the Hudson River will be accessible to the public at any time, according to school officials. Indoor space, including a 300-person auditorium, will be accessible for the community when booked through the community affairs arm of the school. 

Site preparation for the building, which is planned to meet the LEED Gold environmental standard, is expected to begin in July. Construction is slated to start early next year and will take approximately three and one-half years. 

The school plans to launch a website and hotline dedicated to the construction, as it has for its Baker Field Athletic Complex construction in Inwood, within three weeks.

School officials said they will be sensitive to community needs during construction and scaled back its daily construction schedule to begin at 8 a.m., instead of the city’s permissible construction start time of 7 a.m. in order to "be more commensurate with sleep patterns."

The school has also created "comprehensive constructions practices," taking into consideration noise, dust, run-off from the site, and emissions mitigation, school officials said. 

Approximately nine trees will be removed to make way for the new building and layout, but school officials said trees, which will act as wind buffers from currents that come in along the Hudson River, would play a prominent role in the landscape as will new plantings along the southern lawn.