May 1, 2014

Law School's Schwab honored at ribbon-cutting ceremony

Stewart Schwab and Ann Beha
Jason Koski/University Photography
Officially opening Cornell Law School's new wing April 23 were, from left, Alex Harris, immediate past president of the Cornell Law Student Association; Barbara Holden-Smith, vice dean and professor of law; Stewart Schwab, the Allan R. Tessler Dean; architect Ann Beha; Richard F. Robinson, associate dean for administration and finance; and Kevin Clermont, the Robert Ziff Professor of Law and chair of the school's building committee.
Stewart Schwab
Jason Koski/University Photography
Speaking in one of three auditorium-style classrooms in the Law School's new wing, Dean Stewart Schwab said, "A great building can inspire, can create connections, can bolster what we do."

Virtually invisible to College Avenue passersby, the Law School’s newly dedicated East Wing – a subterranean, turf-covered assemblage of auditorium-style classrooms – has a bright secret: its “openness, its clarity, its accessibility.”

So declared Stewart J. Schwab, before cutting a ceremonial ribbon April 23 in one of his last official acts as the Allan R. Tessler Dean. The event honored Schwab, who will return to teaching following a sabbatical year, for his two terms leading the school. The $23.8 million project, which broke ground in June 2012, is the first of three phases in the school’s $60 million expansion and renovation plan.

Schwab said the classrooms are “good to teach and learn in, the gathering space is inviting, and the look and feel are great. I think the space will wear well over time and remain a source of pride for us.”

If the new wing (designed Boston-based Ann Beha Architects) is a metaphor “for what we aspire to in law as well as the Law School,” as the dean said, the 1930s predecessor is something else:

“Now we also love our existing building, with its nooks and crannies, alleyways and byways, Gothic feel,” Schwab told his ribbon-cutting audience. “Indeed, some have told me that original Myron Taylor Hall is a wonderful metaphor for legal study. You can’t possibly know your way around after a semester or year. But after three years you know and appreciate the connections [and] which paths are dead ends.”

Comprising two 70-seat classrooms, a 170-seat auditorium and a glassed-in lobby/study space, the wing tunnels almost all the way to College Avenue. Public access is through a newly configured entrance in Myron Taylor Hall. “Clarity” and “openness” are afforded by west-facing, floor-to-ceiling windows and doors that open to Purcell Courtyard. This new commons area was designed to re-engage that public space in the life of the school and foster a greater sense of community. The courtyard will open in time for Law School Convocation, May 11.

Eduardo M. Peñalver ’94 succeeds Schwab this summer.