Major Great Hall Renovations

POSTED ON: June 1, 2009

Following months of analysis, planning and design, The Great Hall was closed on December 6, 2008 for a twelve week renovation. Thirty years had passed since any major improvements: chairs were noisy and uncomfortable, the audiovisual (AV) system often proved inadequate and acoustics were poor. Funded by a generous grant from The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation, the project brought together many people—including many Cooper alumni—to address these issues while maintaining the Hall’s significant architectural integrity. Involved in leading the renovations were Cooper Union Vice Presidents and Ronni Denes and Robert Hawks; associate dean of The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture Elizabeth O’Donnell (AR’83); director of Continuing Education and Public Programs David Greenstein; director of The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture Archive Steven Hillyer (AR’90) and planning director of the Business Office Clark Wieman.

Sam Anderson (AR’82), Edward Gormley (AR’90) and Sean Khorsandi (AR’04) of Sam Anderson Architects served as architects for the overall project. They coordinated all design issues, including a new AV booth, improved wheelchair accessibility, acoustic treatments for walls and ceilings, locations of AV equipment and new carpet and finishes throughout.

The Irwin Seating Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan designed a new chair that would replicate the signature double curvature of the 1906 version. Jesse Douglas of Source One, Inc. coordinated all the consultants, fabricators and trades. The firm Arup Acoustics was contracted to perform a full acoustic analysis and schematic design report. Gruzen Samton was also involved in the early stages of the renovation. Paul Tummolo, Supervisor of The Cooper Union Audio- Visual Resource Access Center oversaw the upgrading of the AV systems, digital projectors, microphones, video cameras and a system for assisted listening devices for the hearing impaired.

The Great Hall was formally reopened by President Campbell on March 3 on the occasion of the inaugural lecture of the Institute for Sustainable Design at The Cooper Union. Beautifully refurbished, but visually familiar, The Great Hall is now well equipped to continue its tradition as a site for lectures and performances of historic importance.

  • 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.