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March 8, 2017
by AIA New York Chapter
William Cunningham, FAIA, Campus Architect, Weill Cornell Medicine. Photo: Weill Cornell Medical Art and Photography.
Belfer Research Building, Weill Cornell Medicine, New York, NY. Photo: Aislinn Weidele/Ennead Architects.
Belfer Research Building, Weill Cornell Medicine, New York, NY. Photo: Jeff Goldberg/Esto.
Belfer Research Building, Weill Cornell Medicine, New York, NY. Photo: Jeff Goldberg/Esto.
Weill Greenberg Center, Weill Cornell Medicine, New York, NY. Photo: Jeff Goldberg/Esto.
Education and Student Center, Weill Cornell Medicine, New York, NY. Image: Courtesy of Mitchell | Giurgola Architects.

William Cunningham, as Weill Cornell Medicine‘s first Campus Architect, has used design excellence to transform the campus of one of the country’s premier medical institutions into the embodiment of the highest standards of medical education, research, and practice with national and global influence. Cunningham has led the transformation of WCM’s aging and outmoded 2.9-million-square-foot campus, planning new innovative facilities—all designed to a level of LEED Silver or higher—for supporting medical education, ambulatory care, and cutting-edge biomedical research.

The 2017 Jury of Fellows of the AIA elevated Cunningham to its prestigious College of Fellows in the fourth category of fellowship, which recognizes architects who have “Advanced the living standards of people through an improved environment.” Now among the AIA membership’s three percent distinguished with fellowship and honorary fellowship, Cunningham will be honored at an investiture ceremony at the AIA Conference on Architecture 2017 in Orlando as well as at the New Fellows Reception hosted by AIA New York on March 13.

Here, Cunningham tells us why he believes so strongly in the importance of great design to furthering an institution’s goals:

Q: What is your proudest achievement as an architect?

A. I have been an architect at Weill Cornell Medicine helping to transform its campus from a down-at-the-heels group of buildings to an institution that’s among the best of its peers, with architecture to match. I take pride in what I’ve been able to accomplish at Weill Cornell and look forward to making the campus truly embody the college’s cutting-edge medicine, research, and education through its architecture.

Q: What is your earliest memory of experiencing architecture?

A: When I was 12 years old my parents took me out of a suburban junior high school to Rome for a month in the dead of winter. Though the fountains were frozen I fell in love with the baroque and developed a keen love of architecture, Italy, and urbanism. I go there every chance I get.

Q: What are you working on right now?

A: At the moment I’m working on planning and programming new classroom and student facilities for Weill Cornell that emphasize our central mission: the education of future physicians. Simultaneously we have a new research and clinical building for the college on the boards that will become a flagship for Cornell University in New York City.

Q: What does being a Fellow mean to you?

A: I appreciate the recognition for the work I’ve done at Weill Cornell. It affirms the role of the architect as owner being a critical member of the design team, and the importance of great design to furthering an institution’s goals. Personally, I’m gratified to be elevated to Fellow as an architect in a nontraditional career.

Editors’ Note: This feature is part of a series celebrating the 18 members of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) New York Chapter that have been elevated to the prestigious AIA College of Fellows in 2017, an honor awarded to members who have made significant contributions to both the profession and society. Learn more about Fellowship here. See the previous Featured Member here.

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