The Forum Wins “Best New Building” from the Municipal Art Society of New York

February 15, 2019

The Forum, the third new building to open at Columbia University’s Manhattanville campus, was recognized with a 2019 MASterworks Award for “Best New Building” from the Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS).

The three-story, 56,000-square-foot Forum, which opened in September 2018, was designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop, with Dattner Architects as executive architect and Caples Jefferson as associate architect. 

The building, which serves as a gateway to the new Manhattanville campus, features a 437-seat auditorium, a variety of meeting rooms and offices, and community programming at street level.  Offices on the upper floors of The Forum are initially being used by two University-wide Columbia programs: Columbia World Projects, an initiative that aims to bring university research systematically out into the world in the form of projects that will help guide the way to solutions to intractable problems; and the Obama Foundation Scholars, a year-long academic and civic leadership program part of Columbia World Projects designed to strengthen the expertise and knowledge of individuals with a demonstrated ability to be transformative leaders in their communities, nations and the world.

The Forum features a state-of-the-art 437 seat auditorium. (Photo: ©Nic Lehoux)

Like all new buildings on the Manhattanville campus, the transparent ground floor is designed to invite the community into the building.  The Forum’s street-level space intended for public use includes a café, ample public seating with free Wi-Fi, an information center, and an open area where Columbia’s schools and divisions will offer programming. 

The functions accommodated within The Forum dictate the building’s architectural vocabulary. The opacity needed for the largest volume within the building, the auditorium, is expressed on the façade with a skin of prefabricated concrete with punched windows, whereas the offices, which require daylight, are expressed with a glazed façade. The visually transparent ground floor, also with a glazed façade, is both conceptually and physically open to the public. Mechanical systems are made visible on the roof, in keeping with the intention to show The Forum as a purpose-built machine.

The MASteworks Award is the second honor bestowed upon The Forum, following the 2019 AIA New York Merit Award announced in January.

The exterior of The Forum was designed to accommodate the functions of the building  — a prefabricated concrete skin provides opacity for its auditorium, and a glazed façade allows daylight to illuminate the office spaces.  (Photo: ©Nic Lehoux)

Selected each year by an esteemed jury, the MASterworks Awards pay tribute to projects that make a significant contribution to New York City’s built environment. From some of the city’s most iconic buildings to its hidden gems, the list of past winners includes the New Lab, the Fulton Center, McCarren Pool, Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse, the High Bridge, and the Museum at Eldridge Street.

Columbia will be accepting the Best New Building Award along with the other 2019 MASterworks winners at a ceremony at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem on March 28.

As a non-profit advocacy organization, Municipal Art Society of New York mobilizes diverse allies to focus on issues that affect New York City, from sidewalk to skyline. Through three core campaign areas, MAS protects New York’s legacy spaces, encourages thoughtful planning and urban design, and fosters inclusive neighborhoods across the five boroughs.