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Alfred Lerner Hall: Wikis

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Alfred Lerner Hall, with Carman Hall rising in the background

Alfred Lerner Hall is the student center or students' union of Columbia University. It is named for Al Lerner, who financed part of its construction. Situated on the university's historic Morningside Heights campus in New York City, the building, designed by deconstructivist architect Bernard Tschumi, then dean of Columbia's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, opened in 1999, replacing the previous student center, Ferris Booth Hall, which stood from 1960-1996. It attempts to both conform to its context of neoclassical McKim, Mead, and White buildings as well as break out of their mold. In so doing, Lerner Hall features redbrick cladding and proportions that hold the street wall of university buildings along Broadway, but reveals a vast glass wall to the campus fabricated by Eiffel Constructions Metalliques, descendant of the firm that built the Eiffel Tower. Behind the wall are a series of escalating ramps that give the building a unified sense of space and are meant to act as a social meeting place much like the steps of Low Memorial Library.

The building began receiving harsh criticism even before it was completed. The escalating ramps have never met their purpose as a social meeting place, instead taking up valuable space and slowing movement between floors. Due to space constraints, few student activities have individual offices, the vast majority receiving only locker space. The layout--particularly in the administrative areas of the building--has been described as labyrinthine. Neighbors protested that the building serves to further wall off Columbia from the community. Architecture critics have lambasted the building for managing to be simultaneously dull and offensive, and failing to conform to the beaux arts style of the surrounding campus.

Lerner Hall features both a cinema and auditorium named for Roone Arledge, a Columbia alumnus with a distinguished career in sports broadcasting and television news. The building also contains eateries, performance space, student club space, lounges, and administrative offices.

Contents

Traditions

Lerner Hall is home to social events throughout the academic year. The most significant, perhaps, are the Varsity Show, a satirical musical about university life, and Glass House Rocks, in which Lerner (the "glass house") is transformed into a giant party space (the event takes its name from the former television series School House Rock).

Notable events

In 2005, Lerner Hall was the site of a prank by the university's Senior Society of Sachems, which decorated the ramps overnight with saffron colored banners imitating The Gates, an artistic installation by the artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, then on display in Central Park.

In film and television

  • An episode of the Comedy Central show Stella features the ramps and a lounge as an airport terminal.

See also

External links

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