Presenting the New Improved Faculty House

Presenting the New Improved Faculty House

Special from The Record

When the University decided to build Dodge Hall at 116th Street and Broadway 88 years ago, it first had to appease denizens of the all-male Faculty Club. Their haunt, which served as a gathering place for social and intellectual interaction among the Columbia community for decades, was located on the corner where the construction was to take place.  

Click to view a slideshow of Faculty House, then and now.  [Image credit: F.J. Sciame Construction / Mathilda McGee-Tubb]
View a slideshow of Faculty House through the years. Image credit: F.J. Sciame Construction / Mathilda McGee-Tubb

University officials responded by commissioning the city's top neoclassical architectural firm, McKim, Mead & White, which had designed the University's Morningside campus at the turn of the 20th century, to construct a new club. Located at 116th Street and Morningside Drive, it was a handsome brick and limestone mansion with a wide fourth-floor roof terrace that provided extraordinary views of Manhattan, the Bronx and Long Island.  

By 2004, the building, which had never been renovated, was out of date and in a state of disrepair. It lacked air-conditioning, making it barely usable during the summer, and its single creaky elevator made large gatherings impractical. And there was competition from new restaurants opening in the blocks around campus.  

To revive the club, the University brought in Bogdanow Partners Architects, a firm that specializes in the hospitality and restaurant industry and is known for designing downtown restaurants like Union Square Café. The club closed its doors in the spring of 2008 so that construction could begin.

"This restoration was overdue, but the results were worth the wait," said Jeff Scott, executive vice president of Student and Administrative Affairs. "Faculty House can now provide much-needed event and meeting space to the Columbia community."  

Faculty House through the years

The building also features an element the original architects would never have dreamed of: In the midst of the design process, the University decided to go for a LEED rating, an imprimatur of the United States Green Building Council, which promotes environmentally and socially responsible building and design. Faculty House is believed to be the first McKim, Mead & White building to seek LEED certification-marking the intersection of the University's architectural traditions and its environmental goals.  

This month, Faculty House reopens after a top-to-bottom, inside-and-outside renovation. New stairs and landscaping are designed to make its entrance more inviting. Inside, the building's four floors have been divided into a series of dining and meeting spaces that can be reconfigured in myriad ways.  

"This is a whole new Faculty House," said David Martin, general manager of the new Faculty House. "Everything has been designed to meet the diverse needs of our clients. Each floor has been infused with its own personality and an incredible amount of flexibility."  

The first floor features the Ivy Lounge and Coffee Bar, open weekdays from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. The second floor will have the Market Café, a lunchtime cafeteria aimed at graduate students. The third floor, or Presidential Level, showcases adaptable formal rooms for academic, corporate and social occasions. The fourth floor is home to the Faculty House Dining Room, serving lunch buffets daily and an assortment of international cuisines. With its dramatic vaulted ceiling and access to the fabled terraces, this space can host a variety of events. High-tech audio-visual equipment has been installed throughout the building.  

It helped, said principal architect Larry Bogdanow, that McKim, Mead & White designed the building with large window openings, allowing many of the rooms to get by solely with natural lighting. State-of-the-art heating and air-conditioning systems, as well as updated triple-glazed windows, will minimize the building's energy use. Materials removed during the construction were recycled, and new ones were chosen with an eye toward their effect on the environment.  

Art from the LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies and reprints from the Columbia University Archives will be featured throughout the house.  

--by Record Staff