By Aziza Jackson
NEW YORK — Barnard College recently celebrated the grand opening of the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Center for Teaching and Learning, the new hub of academic and intellectual life on the college’s New York City campus. The 128,000-square-foot building, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM), is a new place of interdisciplinary scholarship and a new epicenter of undergraduate learning serving both Barnard and Columbia University students, at the heart of Barnard College’s Morningside Heights campus.
“SOM designed The Milstein Center to serve as a crossroads for the campus, community, and its New York City partners — a place where students and faculty across disciplines can learn through doing, engage in robust dialogue, and visualize ideas,” said SOM Senior Consulting Design Partner Roger Duffy. “We worked closely with the Barnard community to create a multi-modal place that supports the college’s interdisciplinary curriculum through studying, creating, sharing, researching, and synthesizing all forms of knowledge and data. And, because higher education is perpetually changing, we integrated new technology and built in the essential flexibility to equip and serve Barnard well into its future.”
The Milstein Center is a new kind of library. It celebrates Barnard’s collections and archives, while providing new pedagogical opportunities for faculty and scaffolding new learning experiences for its students. The design infuses a variety of study spaces with opportunities for creative, exploratory learning centers and service points. It provides settings suited to individuals, small teams, and large groups, along with state-of-the-art multimedia centers.
The library links all departments and disciplines across the campus — physically, digitally, and philosophically. It is connected to a range of flexible learning spaces, including centers for pedagogy, empirical reasoning, digital humanities, design, and media, as well as a movement lab. Above the library is the Vagelos Computational Science Center, where students and faculty can collaborate on pioneering research in data and computation. Careful lighting design throughout the building combines natural light, programmed lighting scenes, and individual controls to enhance learning environments while contributing to energy savings.
In addition to the library, the Milstein Center provides conference facilities, interdisciplinary workspaces for four academic departments, and a new home for the Athena Center for Leadership Studies and the Barnard Center for Research on Women. The ground floor features a small coffee bar that is open to the public, while the building’s upper stories accommodate faculty offices.
Targeting LEED v3 Silver certification, the Milstein Center continues Barnard College’s tradition of sustainable campus construction projects and reinforces the college’s commitment to climate action. The building’s design features support both Barnard’s environmental curriculum and the behavior change programs being enacted by the student body and faculty. Aligned with the college’s vision to build a more sustainable campus and reduce carbon emissions, The Milstein Center is designed to target 15 percent energy cost savings compared to ASHRAE 90.1 2007, 33 percent water savings within the building, 50 percent water savings for landscape irrigation, and 90 percent construction waste diversion.
“The opening of The Milstein Center marks an important milestone for Barnard,” said Sian Leah Beilock, President of Barnard College. “Its completion supports the creation of new pathways for learning that build on our foundation of academic excellence and inquiry across disciplines. We are tremendously thankful for the Milsteins’ support of this beautiful building, and for SOM’s innovative design that will inspire students, faculty, staff, alumnae, and friends of the College for years to come.”