Cornell Tech

Signage & Environmental Graphics

An iconic wayfinding system for the new technology campus on New York’s Roosevelt Island.

Cornell Tech is a new campus for technology on New York’s Roosevelt Island. Located in the East River between Midtown Manhattan and Long Island City, the graduate school is poised to become a global center for collaboration and innovation. Pentagram has designed a contemporary program of signage, wayfinding and environmental graphics for Cornell Tech that creates a unique sense of place and helps integrate the campus within the park-like setting.

Cornell Tech finally gives New York its own tech campus, bringing together an open and collaborative community of students, designers, engineers, entrepreneurs, and scientists to interact and co-create, all in one place, linking the academic and commercial worlds. The school is a joint project of Cornell University, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, and the City of New York, and includes the Bridge (formally the Tata Innovation Center), a corporate co-location building that functions as an incubator for startups. (More than 50 start-up companies have already been generated by the program.) 

Pentagram worked closely with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, who developed the campus masterplan, and James Corner Field Operations, who created the landscape design. The compact, river-to-river campus is organized along the Tech Walk, a car-free pathway and central spine that links the three buildings of the development’s first phase. In addition to the Bloomberg Center, designed by Morphosis, and the Bridge, designed by Weiss/Manfredi, the campus includes the House, a 26-story building for student and faculty housing, designed by Handel Architects. The campus is pioneering new standards in environmental sustainability: the Bloomberg Center is New York’s largest net-zero energy building, and the House is the world’s tallest passive-house building. Promenades and green spaces are open to the public and offer expansive views of the Queens waterfront and the Manhattan skyline.

The Cornell Tech signage system is organized around a series of vertical totems that seamlessly integrate into an environment that is both an urban campus and a park. The totems acknowledge Cornell with a dimensional and highly recognizable “C” shape. The signs are sized to work at human scale and carefully modulated to minimally impact the visual landscape, complementing the geometric architecture of the campus and evoking nearby skyscrapers, without getting in the way of the fantastic views. Directories are designed to be easily updated as the campus continues to expand.

The “C” shape extends to an entrance landmark in Tech Plaza, a large, sculptural monogram fabricated of perforated stainless steel. As people move around the “C” and look into the mesh surface, a layered moiré pattern is revealed, a dynamic optical effect achieved without digital means. In the evening, the marker is lit from within, glowing in the landscape. The Cornell University seal is embedded in the ground at the center of the “C.”

New York
Michael Gericke
Project team
Don Bilodeau
Elizabeth Kim
Amanda Walter
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
James Corner Field Operations
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