When Myron Taylor Hall was dedicated in 1932, the Law School’s fourteen faculty members and 157 students came nowhere close to filling the grand building. Eighty years later, the 108 full- and part-time faculty members and 695 J.D., J.S.D., and LL.M. students now boasted by the school are working and studying in close quarters.
“We’ve recognized for more than a decade that we have a space crunch,” says Stewart J. Schwab, the Allan R. Tessler Dean and Professor of Law. “The number of bodies has increased, but even more than that, the number of activities has increased.” With more than forty officially recognized student groups and a stream of visiting international scholars, “we’re bursting at the seams.”
Approaching this challenge as an opportunity to streamline, the Law School is set to embark on its first major renovations project in twenty-five years. This construction—the first phase of which breaks ground this summer—will add more classrooms, refocus the use of the Purcell Courtyard, and add an accessible entrance to the College Avenue side of Myron Taylor Hall. “It will clarify the circulation systems of the Law School,” says Cornell's university architect, Gilbert Delgado, who has been working with the designers.
In the first phase of construction, a new wing will be built under the lawn panel between Anabel Taylor Hall and Myron Taylor Hall off the east side of Purcell Courtyard. Housing a lobby and three state-of-the-art classrooms, the addition will be accessible from the courtyard at ground level as well as from the new entrance on College Avenue. The classrooms, Schwab says, will have curved seating areas, forming interactive learning environments conducive to the Socratic teaching style. The new entrance will serve as a clearly recognizable main entry point to Myron Taylor and also “reach out” to the rest of the university.
“It will reinvigorate Purcell Courtyard,” says Schwab, who anticipates that the renovations will make the space not only more functional but also more inviting and inspiring. While the College Avenue entrance will closely resemble the surrounding architecture, the courtyard facade of the new wing “will have more of a contemporary feel, still echoing the collegiate gothic of Myron Taylor Hall.” Adds Delgado, “The execution is very sympathetic to the geometries and forms” already in place.
According to Schwab, Ann Beha Architects, the firm chosen to design the additions, is well known for its subtlety in melding traditional architecture with new additions. Trowbridge Wolf Michaels Landscape Architects was brought on board to design the Purcell Courtyard and surrounding landscapes. “We have confidence that the architects have understood Cornell Law School,” he says, “both our needs and our character—our sense of community.”