Viewing OMA’s Milstein Hall From Above
June 4, 2012
In his essay “Typical Plan”, Rem Koolhaas extends his previous studies of Manhattan’s skyscraper typology from “Delirious, New York”, collecting and displaying the floorplans of various office buildings whose content, according to the architect, was a non-entity. The plans selected by Koolhaas exerted no character or features, but, rather, were intentionally generic and even “therapeutic” when set within the context of architectural history’s preoccupation with the “atypical plan”. The manner in which Koolhaas reproduced the drawings was characteristically polemical, with the architect stripping all of the plan’s secondary systems, leaving only “Dom-ino” like imprints bounded by the buildings’ irregularly-shaped footprints.
Fast forward some years to OMA‘s Milstein Library at Cornell, whose plan cannot be accurately described to be without feature. Yet in Brett Beyer‘s aerial photographs of the building, the design’s more formal qualities are subdued and nearly entirely effaced by the activity that flows through its spaces. Beyer was commissioned to produce an aerial photograph of the 25,000 square-foot studio space, which he accomplished by installing the camera on a boom mounted at 100 different locations. The resultant 250 images were combined in Photoshop, yielding the general outline of the plan, only “filled-in” and set within a white field. Beyer’s Nolli-type configuration is abstract and ordered, but in no way typical, transformed as it is by its messy human occupants. The interactive portrait can be viewed here.