Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology


Ithaca (New York), USA


Science & Technology


8,360 m²





The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology is a 8,360 m² centre devoted to the study and conservation of birds and their habitats. The project includes a visitor’s centre and observatory, collection storage, laboratories, sound studios, the largest library of recorded bird songs in the world, and office space for extensive conservation and “citizen science” programs.

The design strives to accommodate the Laboratory’s extensive program while minimizing the disturbance of the neighbouring wetlands.

RMJM worked to perceptually reduce the scale and visual impact of the building; collection storage and laboratory spaces are nestled behind standing trees, and the building’s height was intentionally kept under two stories so it would not overshadow the young nearby trees.

The second floor retreats from the first, limiting the extent of wall surface area and creating dramatic roof overhangs along three sides of the building. This arrangement effectively hides the Lab’s mass from view, in keeping with its institutional goal of respecting nature and its surroundings.


2004: American Institute of Architects, Chapter Awards