Barnard College - The Milstein Center

Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM)

Owner: Barnard College

Location: New York

A new hub for academic and intellectual life in the heart of Barnard College’s campus in New York City, the 128,000-square foot Milstein Center represents a crossroads for students, the community, and partners across the city. A place for interdisciplinary scholarship, the center reflects the college’s approach to curriculum and the synthesis of all forms of knowledge and data.

Emerging as a new prototype for libraries, the center celebrates Barnard’s collections and archives while providing ample pedagogical opportunities for faculty and support for new learning experiences for the college’s students. The team worked closely with Barnard’s community to ensure the center meets the ever-evolving demands of higher education. Equipped with new technologies and imbued with essential flexibility, the design promises to serve the college well into the future.

Overall, the design is peppered with study spaces as well as creative, exploratory learning centers and service points, all suitable for everything from individuals to large groups. Physically, digitally, and philosophically, the library unites all of the college’s sundry departments and disciplines across its campus. It is connected to a range of flexible spaces that include space for empirical reasoning, digital humanities, and even a movement lab. Above it all, in the Vagelos Computational Science Center, students and faculty engage in pioneering research on data and computation.

The team’s design is a response to the campus’ lawn, its signature open space, which the center overlooks. The building’s massing, a five-story base that rises through a series of terraces, helps maximize the sunlight that reaches the lawn throughout the day. The terraces also help reduce the heat island effect and invite Barnard’s community to use outdoor spaces for study and contemplation. At the top of the center, a cantilevered volume houses a faculty lounge that affords vistas of the Hudson River, Columbia University’s campus, and Midtown Manhattan. This project is expected to achieve LEED v3 Silver Certification.

An embodiment of Barnard’s heralded culture of intellect and collaboration, the center equips the college to continue its support of young women for another 125 years.

Additional information

Owner's Representative: Lehrer, LLC

Construction Manager: Turner Construction

Programming Consultant: Brightspot Strategy

Cost Estimating: Aecom

Landscape Architect: Quennell Rothschild & Partners

structural Engineering: Robert Silman Associates

Site/Civil Engineering: Langan Engineering

MEP/FP Engineering: WSP Group

Vertical Transportation: VDA

Lighting Design: Brandston Partnership, Inc.

Acoustics, AV, IT & Security: Cermai & Associates

Food Service: Cini Little International, Inc.

Sustainable Design: SOM Sustainable Engineering Studio

Code Consulting: Code Consultants Professional Engineers, PC


Charles A. Higueras, FAIA (Chair), San Francisco Public Works, San Francisco, California

Becca Cavell, FAIA, Bora Architects, Portland, Oregon

Brian Chase, Director, Normal Public Library, Normal, Illinois

Jill Friedmann, Assistant Dean, Cline Library, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona

Clem Guthro, Orange County, California

Charles Wray, AIA, Quinn Evans, Richmond, Virginia

Image credits

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Magda Biernat

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Magda Biernat

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Magda Biernat

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Magda Biernat

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Magda Biernat