Sometimes, Architectural complexity comes in a simple form, even a box.

The Diana Center, designed by New York – based Weiss/Manfredi for Barnard College, looks simple: a five-story glass prism served straight up. Its terra-cotta color matches the largely brick Barnard and Columbia University campuses, which face each other across Broadway.

A close reading, however, reveals a narrative of complexity. The façade is paneled is glass, but not in a display of transparency for transparency’s sake: Some panels have a graduated frit; others are shadow boxes, with space between a translucent glass outer layer and a second opaque inner layer. The functions inside the building establish whether the panels will be opaque, transparent, or something in between. A swath of transparent glass rises diagonally up the Broadway façade, revealing a stepped, four-story atrium full of activity.

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