Gates Hall, Cornell’s newest & coolest building

A little less than a year after Bill Gates starred in a video that campaigned for more students to learn code, Cornell’s newest home for computer programming and information science made it’s debut. This semester, students are utilizing the new Gates Hall to learn, research and collaborate. Indeed, the place is pretty freaking cool.

Andrew Levine, president of Cornell’s Association of Computer Science Undergraduates, said he would have liked to had the chance to have his first class in Gates, but, as a senior, he said he likes the creative space.

“I like that everyone writes on the walls,” Levine said. “I don’t know if we’re supposed to do that, but that’s what people have been doing.”

A lot of the walls are made of glass, which has both practical and aesthetic value. Students use the glass walls to write out algorithms, draw whatever is on their minds, or leave inspirational (and sometimes comical) quotes for each other.

Helen Tian, an Information Science graduate student, said she was happy that the building brought her department back on campus.

“Did you know, before they had Gates, Information Sciences were based in Collegetown?” Tian said. “It was super far from campus, and terrible (laughs). So, I like having the space.”

Levine makes use of the abundant group work cells that line most of the second and third floor halls.

“There’s definitely more of them than there are in Upson [Hall, the old computer science building], which is nice,” Levine said. “They hold eight to ten people, and there’s a whiteboard in all of them, which is what you want.”

Tian also pointed out the cells as positive additions to the building, and said “they’re surprisingly sound proof.”

Gates Hall has been a four-year long project; fundraising began in 2010. According the Gates Hall blog, the building cost $60 million, with $25 million coming from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The other $35 million, the site says, came from “donors from almost every Cornell college” (presumably alumni).

A quick walk around the building proves there is still work that needs to be completed. Levine said the ACSU wants to make the computer labs more aesthetically appealing, as the many white walls can be a little imposing. Regardless, the place was alive with students and faculty, many using the facilities to hold office hours and to conduct research.

Some students were using the kitchen in the second floor lounge to make a snack. That lounge also features a foosball table (with two Bears ‘hard at work’) and various oddly shaped couches. The scene resembled a Silicon Valley startup that just made it big. Certainly, the views of the baseball field and surrounding buildings come close in beauty to a Bay Area tech suburb (I should know).

To their credit, the architects created a truly dynamic space that was inspiring to visit. Gates Hall represents a marriage of computer science and design, now lets hope it inspires the next generation to code, code, code, code, code, code, code, code…

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