Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology
A Center Dedicated to Advancing the Understanding and Protection of the Natural World
Ithaca, NY

Project Type

The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology is a 90,000-square-foot center devoted to the study, appreciation and conservation of birds and their habitats. The project includes a visitor’s center and observatory, collection storage, laboratories, sound studios, the largest library of recorded bird songs in the world, and office space for the Lab’s extensive programs of conservation and “citizen science.”

Inspiration from the Pond


The design accommodates the extensive program for the world famous Laboratory within the wetland mosaic it created nearly 40 years ago from former grazing land. Views to and from the pond, the home and inspiration of the Lab, is the primary focus of the Lab design for both visitors and scientists.

Building in the Wetlands


The architects made every effort to minimize disturbance of wetlands and keep the building in scale with its surroundings. The plans of the building as well as the location of roads, parking and trails for the project were mapped against the existing wetlands to find the least-disruptive arrangement to the site. This generated the somewhat unusual plan configuration of the building, particularly at its north side where its diagonal shape directly follows the wetland boundary.