The $40 million (£21 million) Milstein Hall project will create a new library, studios, an exhibition area and public space for the university's College of Architecture, Art and Planning (AAP) - Koolhaas' alma mater.
The 61-year old Pritzker Prize winner, who described the scheme as a 'discreet intervention', studied at Cornell in the early '70s before returning last year as a guest lecturer.
He was commissioned by former Architectural Association chair and long-term associate Mohsen Mostafavi, who is now dean of the AAP.
Developed under the banner of Rem's Rotterdam-based practice, the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), the new 4,000m 2building will sit on a former car park behind and below the existing Sibley Hall.
Part of the development will be dug into the ground to give enough height for a subterranean auditorium.
'We wanted to provide something currently absent from the college,' said Koolhaas, 'a space with the scale to facilitate collaboration.
'We also saw an opportunity to reconnect the gorge to the north side of the arts quad.'
The university expects to submit the project for planning to the City of Ithaca before the end of the year.