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The Emma and Georgina Bloomberg Center at Cornell Tech

The Emma and Georgina Bloomberg Center at Cornell Tech

Posted: December 3, 2019 | Tradewinds

The Emma and Georgina Bloomberg Center at Cornell Tech
Roosevelt Island, New York

Architects specify rainscreen systems to keep moisture from entering a building and to prevent heat from escaping. The rainscreen system on the Bloomberg Center at Cornell Tech serves both purposes while acting as a color-shifting wall of art.

Set on New York’s Roosevelt Island, Bloomberg Center was designed by Morphosis to meld environmental sustainability with leading-edge design to achieve net-zero energy use and LEED® Platinum certification.

The rainscreen, an aluminum panel system that envelopes the four-story building, helps achieve these objectives while serving as a visual tether for the Center’s floating 40,000-square-foot solar canopy.

Pixels and perforations

Featuring color-shifting PPG DURANAR® VARI-COOL® coating, the panels were fabricated and finished by A. Zahner Company to create an artful façade that harmonizes with the local landscape. Zahner painted the panels with PPG’s iradescent coating; then used its proprietary Louvered ZIRA™ system to perforate 337,500 two-inch circular tabs across their surface.

Each perforation is individually programmed to reflect a specific volume of light. As a result, the perforations act like pixels to depict Manhattan’s skyline on one façade and the famous gorges of Ithaca, New York, near Cornell University’s main campus, on the other.

The digital patterning of the perforations was created by running the rainscreen panels through a repurposed welding robot. Students from Cornell Tech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) collaborated with Zahner to develop the algorithm that controlled the device.

While Morphosis selected the coating in part to deflect solar heat, the ability to shift color made it the product of choice for this project. “We were interested in the concept of a dynamic building that changes under different light conditions during different seasons and from different perspectives,” said Ung-Joo Scott Lee, a principal with the firm. “We had never used the PPG VARI-Cool product before, but we are always interested in exploring new materials and finishes.”

PPG Duranar VARI-Cool coating combines pearlescent pigments with PPG’s ULTRA-COOL® infrared-reflective coatings technology, which deflects solar heat away from buildings to reduce heat gain.

Other smart building technologies at Bloomberg Center include high-performance glass, geothermal wells for temperature control; a 40,000-gallon rainwater harvesting system; and a green roof planted with native species. These strategies, together with the photovoltaic canopy, will help Bloomberg Center generate as much energy as it consumes.

To learn more about PPG Duranar VARI-Cool coating, visit or call 1-800-258-6398.