Thursday, July 25, 2013

Rockefeller University Plans Expansion over FDR

Space-starved Rockefeller University has asked permission from the city to construct a canopy over the highway that would span from about 64th to 68th streets, where a two-story research building with a landscaped green roof on top and a 300,000 square-foot conference center would sit. Such expansion is not unheard of—the university is sandwiched between highway platforms built by the United Nations and Weill Cornell Medical Center. The school has tapped star-architect Rafael Viñoly, of 432 Park Avenue fame, to head the project.

Rockefeller University, which stretches from East 62nd to East 68th streets along York Avenue on the Upper East Side, is preparing plans to grow, but with no space left on its campus, the school has come up with a tried and true solution: building new facilities on a deck the school would build over the FDR Highway.

Founded by John D. Rockefeller in 1901 to promote medical research, the school plans to construct three new buildings.

As the university has done in the past, two of those buildings, a one-story conference center and a two-story research building boasting a green roof and rooftop pavilions, would be constructed atop a platform over FDR Drive.

Extending approximately four blocks from East 64th Street to East 68th Street, the new platform would join two other Rockefeller buildings straddling the highway, stretching from 62nd Street to 64th Street. The third new building, an athletic center for students, would replace a faculty parking lot in the northwest corner of campus.

"The new building is critical to maintaining the university's excellent standards for research and teaching, by allowing for the recruitment of new faculty to replace those lost by attrition, and for the renewal of laboratory space that is outdated and poorly suited to modern science," said a spokesperson.

“The low-rise buildings would not impede views of or from Manhattan, nor would they expand the university's size "in terms of personnel or activities."

This is thanks to an innovative design from local architect Rafael Viñoly, where the two-story building will actually be built into the platform, so that the roof is level with the rest of the campus. This will create a larger quad without taking up space on the expanded campus. Whether the older research buildings will be replaced or redeveloped is still being determined.

This is the not the first time the university has expanded over the busy highway below. In 1987, a dormitory building opened atop a platform over the southbound lanes of the FDR between 62nd and 63rd streets. Five years later, a new research building was finished over both lanes of the highway at 64th Street. The new platform will extend from there all the way up to the northern edge of the campus.

Although Rockefeller University owns the air rights, the university still requires approval from city agencies. The school has yet to release a completion date or price estimate for the project.