SU's 'Warehouse' earns knowing crowd's
April 19, 2006
In the past year, Richard Gluckman caught several cab rides into
downtown Syracuse from Hancock Airport. Each time, he began talking with
the drivers, who reacted with enthusiasm upon learning that Gluckman was
the architect who handled the transformation of The Warehouse, the new
home for the Syracuse University School of Architecture.
Those were among "the nicest compliments I've gotten," said Gluckman,
a world-renowned architect from New York City.
He understands that cabdrivers, better than just about anyone, sense
the difference between something fresh and a false hope. And Gluckman
described The Warehouse, an eight-story downtown building formerly used
for storing furniture, as "one of those rare jobs where everything fell
It opened for students last January, with expectations far beyond a
nice academic space.
Both Gluckman and Mark Robbins, dean of architecture at SU, see the
building as a dramatic step in resolving a profound regional challenge.
For the most part, for 40 years, the big Upstate cities have lost
population and energy. Robbins, who witnessed the resurgence of
Columbus, Ohio, said a similar revival could happen in Syracuse.
"We're not a ghost town, by any means," he said Tuesday, from his
office in The Warehouse. "We just need to figure out what our purpose
Part of that notion boils down to the potential of the students
Robbins visited as he walked around the building, students working on
such wildly different projects as a model of a grand canal in Venice and
a model of a waterfront gallery in Hoosick Falls.
There are also more traditional opportunities, Robbins said. He
picked up what looked like a piece of standard concrete. When he passed
his hand behind it, you could see the motion through the sample. Robbins
described it as "translucent concrete," a new building material that he
said is being developed by Ted Brown, an associate architecture
professor at SU.
Among the students themselves, opinions seemed divided Tuesday on the
advantages of attending school downtown as opposed to staying on campus.
The school of architecture will remain in The Warehouse for at least two
more years, Robbins said, while Slocum Hall, at SU, is completely
Several students, who declined to give their names, said they miss
the university and don't appreciate riding a bus downtown. Others, like
Scott Long, paused from eating in a ground-level cafe to say they prefer
classes in the new building.
"I like being in the city, where there's always things going on and
it's a little more like being in the real world," said Long, 20. In the
same way as many of his fellow students, he said he enjoys the coffee
shops and businesses of Armory Square.
As for Gluckman, a native of Buffalo, he earned his international
fame with graceful conversions of old industrial buildings into gallery
and office space. He is also an alumnus of the SU architecture school,
which helps to explain his enthusiasm for The Warehouse.
"I have a strong affinity for (SU), and for the city, and it's a
project we're really proud of because the budget and the schedule were
incredibly tight," Gluckman said by telephone Tuesday, from New York.
He is especially pleased with what he calls "the contemporary
intervention into a situation like that." To put it in simple terms, he
likes how the new heating vents and lights mesh with the raw surface of
the warehouse walls, and the way tinted windows throw golden light into
studio space even on cloudy days.
Most of all, he is glad to contribute to an Upstate city that is
"rethinking its strategies."
In that sense, it may be years before we can measure the full success
of The Warehouse. Gluckman, Robbins and SU Chancellor Nancy Cantor all
perceive it as a critical move in breaking down the long- standing
division between the campus and its host community.
It is also intended to anchor one end of the "connective corridor,"
Cantor's dream for creating a new and attractive pedestrian link between
the city and SU. The optimal result, Robbins said, would be a downtown
where students and other young people want to live, a simple attribute
that makes or breaks a city.
"It's like planting grass on the side of a hill," Robbins said of
bringing in new residents, who become the answer to long civic erosion.
From the beginning, Robbins saw The Warehouse as a means toward that
goal. And even our cabdrivers, who've seen it all, told Gluckman it
Sean Kirst is a columnist with The Post-Standard. His columns appear
Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
© 2006 The Post-Standard.
about SU's Warehouse