Honor - Excellence in Landscape Architecture for Open Space Planning

Cornell University

Cornell Tech Campus
Cornell University - Cornell Tech Campus
Jury Comments
“. . . outstanding! . . . flexible, adaptable, and prepared for an unknown future . . . amazing views . . . performative landscape that seamlessly integrates into a cohesive design . . . addresses ever-present environmental challenges . . .”


    • Cornell Tech is a pedestrian-oriented campus with ADA-accessible connections throughout.
    • Campus planning includes a focus on connectivity with the city.
    • A north-south spine creates a well-connected and pedestrian-oriented campus.
    • Landscape design for a “mineral fluvial landscape” employs smart systems.
    • The stormwater managment system stores and treats an estimated 1.9 million galls of runoff annually.


In pursuit of the 2010 Applied Sciences NYC competition, Cornell Tech’s approach was to create a highly integrated master plan with collaboration between architecture, landscape architecture, and engineering as a priority. The goal of the master plan was to develop a vision for a $2 billion, 2M sf campus for the 21st century anchored in NYC. With a 20-year implementation horizon, the design needed to be flexible to accommodate an institution whose physical requirements would continue evolving with new approaches and technological developments while establishing a clear design vision with a coherent sense of place upon final buildout. The design mixes living spaces, workspaces, restaurants, and outdoor amenities, blurring the boundaries between the academic and commercial and the educational institution with the public realm.

Located on an island in the East River, the Cornell Tech campus faced numerous challenges: addressing resiliency, projected sea level rise, and creating a highly performative landscape that can process and reuse stormwater runoff. A performance-driven landscape gently lifts the campus from all sides with a north-south ridge, the Tech Walk, that sits above the 500-year flood elevation while complying with ADA codes.

Cornell Tech’s criteria required long-term, sustainable, and environmentally smart campus design. Buildings are designed according to LEED, Net Zero, and Passive House principles, and open space landscapes are performative, incorporating a rain harvesting tank used for lawn irrigation, gravel trenches under pathways that create a greater capacity to hold and slow stormwater, and bio-filtration gardens that treat stormwater runoff non-mechanically before entering the river, permeable paving, and hundreds of new trees and native plants. Underneath the Campus Lawn is a geothermal field that provides energy to the Bloomberg Center Building.

Open to the public, the campus features a permeable edge, inviting passersby in and allowing visitors to easily enter campus. As a result, the campus functions more as an urban park than a gated campus, designed to be outward-looking and interconnected with the city. Buildings and signature open spaces are oriented to maximize views of both Manhattan and Queens, reinforcing the campus’s connection to the greater city and situating it within its urban context.

Project Team

Open Space Master Planner, Landscape Architect: James Corner Field Operations; Master Plan Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM); Civil Engineering: Philip Habib & Associates; MEP Engineering: Jaros, Baum & Bolles; Structural Engineering: DeSimone Consulting Engineers; Lighting Designer: Brandston Partnership Inc.; Branding & Wayfinding: Pentagram; Irrigation: Northern Designs; Soil Science: Craul Land Scientists; Cost Estimator: Gleed; Expeditor: JAM Consultants, Inc.