Cornell University seeks Senior Facilities Director, Senior Director / University Architect

Cornell is a world-class research institution known for the breadth and rigor of its curricula, and an academy dedicated to preparing young people to be well-educated and well-rounded citizens of the world. Its faculty and students believe in the critical importance of knowledge—both theoretical and applied—as a means of improving the human condition and solving the world’s problems.

Among the Ithaca, NY campus, the Weill Cornell Medicine campuses in New York City and Qatar, and the new Cornell Tech campus in New York City, the university enrolls a diverse student body of more than 14,300 undergraduates and 8,900 graduate and professional school students. Cornell employs some 8,100 staff and 1,600 professorial faculty members in Ithaca and at Cornell Tech, and an additional 5,000 staff and 1,700 faculty members at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City. The university is governed by a 64-member board of trustees, which includes representatives from the faculty, students, staff, alumni, and New York State.

Founded in 1865, Cornell University is a private, Ivy League, research university and the land-grant institution of New York State. Three of its undergraduate colleges and its graduate veterinary college are “contract colleges” (operated by Cornell under contract with New York State). As a land-grant university, Cornell operates a cooperative extension outreach program in every county of New York State and has operated the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York for 125 years, developing cutting-edge research and technologies essential to feeding the world and strengthening New York economies. Also, Cornell’s impact in New York City is growing, with a new graduate campus, Cornell Tech, set to move this summer from its temporary facility in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan to its permanent home on Roosevelt Island.

Annually, the university generates more than $3 billion of economic activity statewide through its payroll, purchasing, and construction expenditures. Cornell counts more than 245,000 living alumni, and its former and present faculty and alumni include 46 Nobel laureates, 34 Marshall Scholars, 29 Rhodes Scholars, seven Gates Scholars, and 14 living billionaires.

Cornell has a rich history of architecturally significant buildings. Of 40 all-time Pritzker laureates, six have buildings on Cornell’s campus, one of the highest proportions of any school in the world. The six buildings are Uris Hall (1972), the Johnson Museum of Art (1973), the Schwartz Center (1989), Weill Hall (2008), Milstein Hall (2011) and Gates Hall (2013). Other buildings on Cornell’s campus, with many early examples being designed by professors and students, run the gamut of architectural styles prevalent in the past 150 years.

The campus of Cornell University is renowned for the quality of its buildings, the vitality of its outdoor spaces, and the drama of its topography. This physical setting contributes significantly to the reputational excellence of the university by providing an inspiring and supportive armature for the intellectual and social life of the university community. The University Architect must be committed to preserving and enhancing Cornell’s long tradition of balancing historic and contemporary architectures; adaptive reuse and historic preservation; constructed open spaces and raw nature; and critical interventions and humble repairs.


In the central Finger Lakes Region of New York State, Tompkins County and Ithaca exemplify a small-town atmosphere, while showcasing the qualities of a larger metropolitan city. The Finger Lakes Region is made up of 14 counties that occupy 9,000 square miles of the state. Tompkins County measures 476 square miles. Ithaca sits at the southern tip of Cayuga Lake, the longest of the 11 Finger Lakes. By car it is just four hours from New York City, one hour from Syracuse, two hours from Rochester, and four hours from Philadelphia, PA.

The climate of Tompkins County provides for a variety of outdoor activities ranging from boating, swimming, biking, and hiking in summer, to cross-country skiing and ice-skating in winter. “Ithaca is Gorges” aptly describes the area, which is known for its deep cut gorges and spectacular waterfalls.

Specialized shopping and restaurants provide a unique and exciting variety for all tastes and ages. The state parks and many lakes offer the best in fishing, hunting, swimming and boating. Local wineries, art galleries and museums provide something for everyone.

More information on relocation to Ithaca can be viewed by clicking this link:


The Senior Director/University Architect (UA) will lead, promote, and direct a comprehensive, customer sensitive unit for one of Cornell University’s core functional facilities areas: Campus Planning and Design. As such, the Senior Director/UA will contribute significantly to the overall direction of architectural design, campus planning, landscape architecture and capital planning.

As a key steward of the university’s facilities, the Senior Director/UA is responsible for guidance of architectural designs, the selection of architectural consultants, and leadership of the Campus Planning Office. Lead initiatives to meet the long-range, functional and aesthetic goals of the university. The Senior Director/UA will have a high degree of accountability with regard to the relationships of the five key constituencies: campus unit partners, the university, staff, colleagues, and external agencies. The Senior Director/UA will represent the university’s interests in facility matters with senior administrators, the Board of Trustees, local officials, faculty, and others.

The Senior Director/UA reports to the Vice President for Infrastructure, Properties and Planning and will also be responsible to the Capital Funding & Priorities Committee, and the Buildings and Properties Committee of the Board of Trustees. The Senior Director/UA is expected to be highly credible and able to inform the administration, as well as the Architectural Advisory Committee, on sensitive design matters and to build consensus. The Senior Director/UA is to be the architectural conscience of the institution and the steward of sound architectural design standards, ensuring a cohesive campus that promotes Cornell’s educational mission. The Senior Director/UA will adjust to changing needs of programs and faculty by translating programmatic needs into physical space with a sensitivity to adaptive reuse of historic buildings, historic preservation, aesthetically pleasing grounds and greenspaces, and focusing on the campus as a place for students to study and learn. Significant upcoming projects include:

  • McGraw Hall Renovation
  • Sibley Hall Renovation
  • Plant Science Building Renovation
  • Campus Masterplan Update
  • New Undergraduate Housing Development
  • NYTech Phase II

The Senior Director/University Architect leads a well-tenured team of 15 through the following direct reports:

  • University Planner
  • Assistant University Architect
  • Administrative Assistant

Cornell University is a values–based organization where all employees are accountable for supporting the organization’s values of truth, respect, excellence, teamwork, and integrity. IPP employees are required to attend staff development trainings and participate in the performance evaluation process.


  • Plans, directs, and provides design guidance to building projects, campus master planning efforts and Capital Planning. Provide overall guidance regarding new or existing university architectural and project planning design standards as well as the best cost/value approach for the university. Assures professional quality design standards through review and approval of individual capital planning and design projects. Working with the Director of Capital and Space Planning and the Campus Manager, assists in the development of projects that will form the Cornell University 5-year Capital Plan. Prepares and presents capital projects and plans to the senior administration, Board of Trustees, Deans, Vice Presidents, donors, and others.   Frequently makes project presentations to university and community approval bodies and information presentations to various groups.
  • Consults the Board of Trustees on an individual and group basis on the various design solutions to programmatic needs. Develops strategies and advocates the design solutions to the administration, university stakeholder groups, and to the Board of Trustees. Leads consensus-building initiatives around controversial projects. Coordinates with, and participates as a member of the Architectural Review Committee. Provide direction to stakeholder groups and project managers.
  • Directs, oversees and provides guidance to the university’s campus master planning efforts. Works closely with the University Planner to ensure that design and planning solutions are in concert. Meets frequently with University stakeholders to understand and assist in their facility planning and design needs and assists in soliciting and organizing stakeholder input.
  • Leads the architect selection process for the university including pre-qualification, establishing selection criteria, interview and evaluation. Chairs selection boards. Promotes the selection of firms that will bring distinguished architecture to the University.
  • Provide leadership and guidance to the PSCC’s Buildings Focus Team in developing high performance standards, and advocating for designs that are sustainable with energy efficiency goals in support of the university’s climate action plan.
  • As a member of the senior leadership team for Infrastructure Properties and Planning, collaborate with the appropriate division Senior Directors and Associate Vice Presidents to develop effective plans to support division-wide and university-wide initiatives.
  • Provide leadership and guidance, coach, mentor, and ensure training of all department associates for professional growth and development.
  • Perform other duties and responsibilities as assigned


  • Bachelor’s degree in Architecture with a professional license in architecture in the State of New York or reciprocity for licensure within 6 months of hire date with a minimum of ten years’ of related experience required.
  • Significant experience in facility project and design management.
  • Successful managerial and leadership experience is required; a well-developed maturity in decision processes and leading/managing diverse teams with conflicting needs or requirements is required; flexible and collaborative leadership style.
  • Ability to operate effectively in a politically-charged environment with controversial issues required.
  • Strong presentation and publication skills.
  • Professional credibility and the ability to build consensus around controversial issues is required.
  • This position requires a visionary person who is able to develop innovative approaches to project design issues.


  • A Master’s degree in Architecture is preferred.
  • Experience with adaptive reuse of historic buildings highly desired.
  • Experience working as a Chief Architect in a higher education environment or as a Principal in an architectural firm with predominantly higher education clients and staff management oversight is highly desired.
  • Experience with state or federally-funded projects.
  • Experience working in a research university is a plus.

Cornell University has retained Helbling & Associates, Inc. to assist with this search.

Please submit applications or nominations to:

Mr. Joe Wargo, Senior Managing Consultant

Helbling & Associates, Inc., 8000 Brooktree Road, Suite 100, Wexford, PA 15090

Diversity and Inclusion are a part of Cornell University’s heritage.  We are a recognized employer and educator valuing AA/EEO, Protected Veterans and Individuals with Disabilities.