Architecture at Cooper 1859–2009

November 02, 2009

Architecture Gallery in the Cooper Union Foundation Building Elevation fragment of the Foundation Building by Frederick Petersen, c. 1853

October 23 through December 4, 2009

From the opening of the Foundation Building in 1859 to that of the “new” academic building at 41 Cooper Square in 2009, architecture has nurtured and supported the unique pedagogy of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. Reciprocally, the education of architects, from the first drawing classes of 1859 to the full five year undergraduate professional degree program and post-professional master’s program, has been informed and structured within the careful design and re-design of its buildings.The exhibition Architecture at Cooper 1859-2009 traces the history of architecture and architectural education at The Cooper Union and examines how the evolving pedagogy of the program has been embodied and reflected in the changing architecture of the institution itself. The exhibition follows the successive transformations of Cooper Union’s architecture, from the Foundation Building, which was designed by Frederick Petersen and completed in 1859, extensively renovated by Leopold Eidlitz in the 1880’s, and transformed in 1975 by John Hejduk, to the construction of 41 Cooper Square by Thom Mayne in 2009.

The exhibition also examines how the education of architects, beginning with the first drawing classes of 1860 to the five year undergraduate professional degree program and post-professional master’s program, has been reflected in the careful design and re-design of the school's buildings. For the first time, recently discovered blueprints of the Foundation Building from the Eidlitz reconstruction work and design phase blueprints from the Hejduk renovation are on public display. Also featured is an original, rare drawing fragment of the Foundation Building by Petersen, a digital reconstruction of the architectural evolution of the Foundation Building, as well as images of student exhibitions and publications from 1965 to the present demonstrating the development of the Chanin School’s pedagogy—which has influenced the study and teaching of architecture worldwide.

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.