Ithaca, New York

Cornell University Law School
Academic Center and Commons

Our initial Master Plan for Cornell University’s 200,000 GSF Law School focused on preserving historic resources, re-purposing existing buildings, and accommodating growth without expanding the campus footprint. Working with Law School faculty and staff, a conceptual plan was created, combining renovations with a new building initiative.

A new entrance and lobby for the School’s signature Gothic-revival library building clarify campus arrival, welcome, and wayfinding. A former locker space is repurposed as a Commons and café for Law School students and faculty. A new Academic Center, constructed below an existing lawn, provides three tiered classrooms and breakout spaces, all without increasing campus footprint.

Both the Academic Center and Commons open onto a re-envisioned historic quad, enhancing the use of this previously underutilized outdoor space as a central gathering place for the Law School community.

Cornell University
Completed 2014, LEED Platinum
Project Size
Renovation | 9,000 GSF New Construction | 16,500 GSF
Reception, Classrooms, Commons/Cafe, Exterior Quadrangle
Boston Society of Architects Educational Facilities Award
SCUP/AIA-CAE Excellence in Architecture Merit Award
AIA Southern New York Design Honorable Mention
The Academic Center includes a 170-seat classroom, two 70+-seat classrooms, and breakout space. Constructed below grade, the Academic Center’s roof reinstates a campus green. The sub-grade location benefits from surrounding thermal mass, but still offers views and daylight.
“In a masterful stroke of clarity, the architect’s design engaged the existing underutilized courtyard thereby activating this vital exterior public space and reinforcing its role as the central signature space for the University. This is a wonderful example of how thoughtful architecture can greatly enliven our lives by providing meaningful public space directly accessible from high occupancy spaces."
— Gilbert Delgado, AIA, University Architect, Cornell University

Our Process

Ann Beha Architects, now Annum Architects
Project Team
Ann Beha FAIA, Scott Aquilina AIA, Jason Bowers AIA, Chantel Hall (ABA/Annum); Gibble Norden Champion Brown (Structural); Altieri (Mechanical); Sullivan Code Group (Code); Acentech (Acoustics / AV); Davis Langdon (Cost); Haley & Aldrich (Geotechnical); T.G. Miller, P.C. (Civil); Trowbridge and Wolf (Landscape); Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design (Lighting); Atelier Ten (LEED Consulting); Simpson Gumpertz & Heger (Technical); Welliver (Construction Management); David Lamb (Photography)