When we think of a historic College campus, often what comes to mind are large, ivy-covered brick buildings, stone pathways, and expansive greenspace. This is true of Barnard College, located in the heart of bustling Manhattan. The campus brings historic charm to the city’s urban setting. Although traditional brick buildings are classic and timeless, they can present a challenge when incorporating new, modern structures into the existing framework. This was the challenge facing New York architects, Weiss/Manfredi when designing The Diana Center at Barnard College.
The original concept for the Diana Center was complex, as Weiss/Manfredi was tasked with creating an open-concept, multi-use interior space, while blending the building’s exterior with the other brick and terra cotta buildings on campus. To accomplish their goals, Weiss/Manfredi’s design team developed an all-encompassing solution that served to unite interior and exterior spaces, bringing together social, artistic, and intellectual life on campus.
To create an open-concept feel for the building’s interior, Weiss/Manfredi incorporated an open double-height glass atrium which ascends diagonally through the building’s seven floors. The atrium is lined on all sides with clear glass windows to improve daylighting within the space and provide spectacular views of the surrounding campus.
When creating the design for the building’s exterior, Weiss/Manfredi’s design innovation truly shines. The façade, which includes 1154 decorative glass panels, uses a terra cotta color to translate the opacity of brick into a contemporary and luminous curtain wall system. Design partner Marion Weiss of Weiss/Manfredi describes the effect as “The colors change depending how the light and its angle play with the etching, shifting from dull copper brown to copper red. The colors enter into a conversation with the traditional buildings. The idea is a building that changes over the course of a day.”
Although the complexity of the pattern defies easy recognition, only three varieties of decorative glass panels make up the stunning and intricate design. The panels were created using Goldray’s silkscreened ceramic frit process, where ceramic frit was applied to the glass using varying vertical striations graded from opaque to transparent. The panels are installed strategically, with transparent panels used to highlight the indoor atrium and provide views into the building’s public spaces and opaque panels to limit visibility in areas where privacy is needed. The façade also functions to support the building’s overall sustainable design, as it maximizes daylighting while reducing solar heat gain.
The recipient of many design awards, the Diana Center at Barnard College is a perfect example of how Weiss/Manfredi was able to use creative and thoughtful design to recognize and respect the history of Barnard College, while looking toward the future of architecture.
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