Columbia University Northwest Corner Building

  • Structural design of a high-rise building that functions as a bridge, spanning an existing gymnasium.
  • Integration of mechanical, electrical and plumbing infrastructure for future flexibility of interdisciplinary research.
  • Creative engineering solutions to achieve architectural goals of openness, transparency and connectivity.
  • Reducing laboratories' energy consumption to meet sustainable design targets, achieving LEED® Gold certification.

Arup's engineering and consulting services for a high-rise science building helped Columbia University realize its goal of forging stronger connections with the surrounding city.

Architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff lauded the team’s efforts in a New York Times review, calling the structure “a gleaming physical expression of the university’s desire to bridge the divide between the insular world of the campus and the community beyond its walls.”

We provided full mechanical, electrical, plumbing and structural engineering services, as well as IT/communications, fire, securitysustainabilityacoustic and lighting consulting.

Creating connections

To cut costs and avoid disruption of university services during construction, Columbia opted to build around an existing gymnasium. The new tower therefore effectively needed to function as a high-rise bridge spanning over the gymnasium seven stories off the ground.

After selecting a chevron structure for the core of the new building, which rises over the gym, Arup experimented with hanging the remainder from the chevron rather supporting it from the ground up. Comparative structural analysis demonstrated that this configuration actually performed better than the standard option.

The hanging structure freed up the lower floors to be used for public open space without the need to build expensive, unsightly transfer structures. This enabled two large, highly transparent spaces – a cafe and a library – to be situated close to the ground, providing clear points of connection between campus and city.


  • View from across the street from the Northwest Corner Building at dusk, showing brightly lit cafe and libraryOpen gallery

    Arup worked closely with architect Rafael Moneo to build new connections between campus and city.

  • Computer image of different possible structural configurations developed by Arup's Random Structure Generator.Open gallery

    Our innovative design solutions included a 'random structure generator'.