At his 2002 inauguration, Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger spoke about a great research university’s responsibility to address the challenges that face society. Yet without the space for students and faculty to pursue knowledge, he said, Columbia could not fulfill that essential civic mission. He committed the University to a long-term vision for a new and different kind of urban campus that would address expanding academic needs and enhance the urban fabric of the city and West Harlem.
The environmentally sustainable campus in a onetime industrial area has no walls or gates, and its publicly accessible green spaces and glasswalled buildings that are nearly transparent are open to the public at street level. It is a new kind of campus for a new century, says Bollinger, as important as Columbia’s 1896 move from midtown Manhattan to a bucolic site on Morningside Heights. In the decades following, the University and city have risen together to global preeminence.
“Universities are dazzling institutions, the proof residing in their unique longevity and in their astounding production of new knowledge over time,” Bollinger says. “Building this new campus in Manhattanville should be a time in which we demonstrate that courage and confidence in ourselves to re-evaluate what we take to be important and the roles we should assume in the world.”