What's in a Name?

Searching the internet for information on skip-stop elevators -- used most recently and favorably in the U.S. Federal Building in San Francisco by Morphosis -- another Thom Mayne project popped up, Cooper Union's new academic building now under construction in Manhattan. What struck me wasn't the fact that the building also includes skip-stop elevators, but that one can -- for a yet-to-be-determined amount of $$$ -- name the skip-stop stairs that connect the floors not served by elevators.


The skip-stop stairs are just one of the many naming opportunities in the new building, from the building itself to academic spaces and special spaces like the stairs. These last are what intrigues me, as the Cooper Union page describes that "Thom Mayne has created a remarkable set of public spaces as the connective tissue of ... a 'boldly ravishing building.'" Realizing how important these naming opportunities are to academic institutions wishing to raise funds for new construction, does this consideration influence the design of higher-ed buildings? "Mr. Mayne, could you please add a Sky Bridge? It would be an excellent source of Ca-Ching and would surely complement the Skip Stephenson stairs!"

Naming a stair or sky bridge also makes me wonder how these names are expressed. A bench or a chair is easy, as a small plaque on the back indicates the name of the donor. But a skip-stop stair? How does that work? It seems to warrant more than a plaque on the wall. Perhaps each tread and riser is a separate letter, so as one moves up or down they can spell the donor's name with each step. Perhaps Mr. Mayne needs to step in and consult on naming conventions applied to the public spaces, so they don't detract from his "ravishing building."


  1. Where I work, they recently moved a huge donor's plaque (roughly twelve feet long and five feet high) to a hidden corner of the library near a fire exit.

    Due to the size of the plaque, there aren't many other surfaces that can hold the plaque.


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