2021 Honor Award

General Design

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation-David Rockefeller River Campus at The Rockefeller University

New York, NY

Landscape Architect:


Project Team:

Client: Rockefeller University
Developer: MCR/MORSE Development
Landscape Architect:Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, P.C. (MNLA)
Architect: Rafael Vinoly Architects,PC
Structural Engineer: Thornton Tomasetti
MEP: BR+A Consulting Engineers
Marine Engineer: Ocean and Coastal Consultants
Geotechnical and Civil Engineering: Langan
Environmental: AKRF
Lighting: One Lux Studio
Construction Manager: Turner Construction

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation David Rockefeller River Campus at The Rockefeller University (1)

About the Project:

Seeking to remain the world’s leading biomedical research institution, a new laboratory building situated over the FDR Drive offers its scholars state-of-the-art research facilities. The 3-block long building presents an incredible landscape design opportunity: the addition of more than 1.4 acres of new open space to a constrained campus that now engages its riverfront location and affords scientists respite. MNLA took inspiration from Dan Kiley’s inward-facing campus design to create a contemporary, outward-facing prospect to the river. The landscape frames experiential moments of both expansive and intimate views. By championing a sustainable approach to planting and materiality on the lab’s roof and the public esplanade below, the two projects combine to contribute significant ecosystem services to the community.

Special Factors & Additional Information:

The client commissioned a low, linear building to create an innovative and collaborative laboratory space. The horizontal orientation offers an incredible landscape design opportunity: the addition of over 1.4 acres of new open space that engages the riverfront and affords scientists respite and inspiration.
Moving Forward by Looking Back The landscape architect took inspiration from Dan Kiley’s 1956 inwardfacing campus to create a contemporary, outward-facing space that seamlessly merges the old and the new. Subtle modifications to Kiley’s palette celebrate sustainability. Native species form a lush landscape of texture and movement attracting bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. Reflective pavements ensure that the rooftop is not contributing to the heat island effect and absorptive planters filter rainwater adding over a half of an acre of permeability.
A New Campus Experience Two grand stairs anchor the rooftop to the campus and inspire anticipation. Upon arrival, a striking amphitheater acts as a nexus of activity. Cast stone walls support soil for plants and tie the new landscape geometry to the historic core. An al fresco dining terrace provides a place of dialogue for scholars. The design leverages unparalleled views of the East River to frame experiential moments. Glass railings maximize transparency and connect the rooftop to the water below, which for the first time becomes an
integral part of the campus experience. A riverfront promenade lined with Honey Locusts echoes Kiley’s allees and offers a breathtaking prospect. The project includes the redesign of an acre of public esplanade along the East River. Native trees and a sound barrier dampen highway sound and provide a river-focused experience to bikers, walkers and joggers. Designed with community input, Rockefeller University established an endowment to maintain this
landscape in perpetuity. Together, these new landscapes create a new, majestic addition to the shoreline and New York City skyline.

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