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Around the Quad

Plantations Opens New Welcome Center

University Photography

With its light-filled atrium and lobby surrounded by walls of windows and skylights, the new Brian C. Nevin Welcome Center is a beautiful beacon for visitors to Cornell Plantations. It’s also a shining example of sustainability and a prize-winning architectural gem.

The new center, built into Comstock Knoll in the heart of the botanical gardens below Tower Road, is expected to meet the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold certification standards, but may even make platinum certification, which would be a first for a Cornell building. Green features include a living roof, solar roof panels that supply 40–60 percent of the building’s heating and “free cooling” from vents that draw in cool air from the base of the knoll.

Its designers, Baird Sampson Neuert Architects, have won a 2010 Award of Excellence from Canadian Architect magazine and an award from the Ontario Architects' Association for their work on the center.

The building offers interpretive exhibits in the atrium, a reception desk, fully accessible restrooms, a gift shop, and small café. The second floor, accessible by stairs and a low-energy elevator, houses a small conference room, kitchenette, and a 100-seat multipurpose room that can be divided into two rooms.

The center officially opened to the public in February, and a grand opening celebration for the Ithaca community will be held May 22.

“We could not be more thrilled with this building and the many functions it will provide,” says Don Rakow, MPS ’77, PhD ’87, the Elizabeth Newman Wilds Director of Cornell Plantations.

The welcome center is named for Brian Nevin ’50, at the request of C. Sherwood Southwick, his business partner and the center’s major donor. Nevin and Southwick co-owned Brianwood Antiques on State Street in Ithaca for 32 years.