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How To Plan a Campus For an Island

Cornell Tech is expected to eventually spawn new companies and jobs on both sides of the East River. (Credit: Bebeto Matthews/AP)

A discussion with SOM design partner Roger Duffy on the master plan he helped put together for Cornell Tech.

School is now in session at Cornell Tech, the Ivy League university’shighly anticipated engineering campus on Roosevelt Island in New York City.

The project was conceived through a economic development initiative in 2008 under then-mayor Michael Bloomberg, in which the city would give land and $100 million in exchange for an applied-science campus that would generate new jobs for New York. Cornell and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology’s joint bid was announced the winner, beating out six other proposals, in December 2011.

Formerly known as Welfare Island until 1971, Roosevelt Island sits in relative obscurity within New York City, despite its easy public transit access to Midtown, amazing views, and overall tranquility. Today, the narrow 2-mile-long island also boasts a mix of postwar housing, the ruins of an early 20th century smallpox hospital, and a Louis Kahn-designed memorial to Franklin Delano Roosevelt—the island’s namesake.

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