wolfgang tschapeller renovates cornell university library with suspended book stacks

by Julia Wald

following an 18-month renovation of the historic rand hall at cornell university in ithaca, new york, the ‘mui ho fine arts library’ opened in august 2019. the redesigned space was designed by architect wolfgang tschapeller, whose goal for the project was ‘a 21st-century interpretation of the grand reading rooms associated with great research collections’. the project involved removing the existing building’s third floor, with the renovated library now comprising four levels of massed stacks with books suspended as a centerpiece.

following wolfgang tschapeller’s renovation, the ground floor of cornell university’s rand hall is now a material practice center that includes wood, metal, and digital fabrication shops, a maker space, a research lab, and a small-tool repository. the first library level includes book stacks, an open reading room with flexible and collaborative workspaces, 18 individual study carrels for focused research, public computing and output devices, circulation desks, and direct access to the L. P. kwee studios in milstein hall.

further book stacks are found on the second library level, alongside a seminar room for classes, meetings, and collaboration, and librarian offices. the third level contains yet more book stacks, a display area, and a reading room, which all overlook the expansive spaces below. the second and third floors are now a single open volume that continues almost the entire length of the space.

the envelope of rand hall, which opened in 1911, also required extensive rehabilitation, with other upgrades including the addition of thermal installation, double-glazed windows, and the replacement of all mechanical systems. it is forecast that this will result in a projected 70% reduction of rand hall’s energy use. wolfgang tschapeller, who studied architecture at cornell, currently leads the institute of art and architecture in vienna, in addition to his own firm.

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