POSTED ON: February 22, 2021
For her fall 2020 History of Architecture course, Associate Professor Tamar Zinguer asked of her students: “How could a monument reflect the changing values of a dynamic society? Should a monument set in stone still stand if it reflects an intense amnesia and public forgetting? Does a monument need to be constructed, built and tangible, or could it be intangible, testifying to cultural heritage alone? Furthermore, could an artifact that is deemed to be a National Historic Landmark, for example, be relevant for a diverse society and reflect that all of history matters?”
The students, many of whom were residing outside of New York during the course, were prompted by Zinguer “to identify a site, or a building that interests you and…to research its history [and] present the contested ideas behind its appreciation or lack of it…” This research culminated in a 10-12 minute film created by each student as their final project for the course. Two of these films, made by students who remained in New York City, are presented here—Seneca Village: The Forgotten Community, by Laela Baker; and Deli: A Modern Monument of New York City, by Denise Cholula and Ru Jia.
Zinguer notes of Baker's film: “In 1825 African Americans began settling in Seneca Village, a five-acre plot of land from 82nd to 89th Street, between Central Park West and the road marking 7th Avenue before the Park was drawn. Some were upper middle-class citizens, who having become landowners, earned the right to vote and were politically involved. This community, which numbered close to 300 inhabitants by 1857 when their land was seized through eminent domain for the construction of Central Park, has been erased and largely ignored. In her film Laela Baker recounts the story of this impressive settlement, the site of which should be regarded as a historic civic monument.”
Cholula and Jia proposed for their monument a ubiquitous New York City institution—the deli. Tracing its origins from the 19th century Jewish delicatessen to its current multicultural incarnation as bodegas and corner stores, their film examines the deli’s design and its importance for neighborhoods and communities throughout the city.
POSTED ON: February 18, 2021
The work of School of Architecture graduates Jemuel Joseph and Alexis Rivas, both AR’16, has been featured in Archinect, in a piece addressing their unique approach to productizing prefabrication. Co-founders of Cover, a company that designs, manufactures, and installs backyard homes in Los Angeles, Joseph and Rivas challenge the inefficiencies and high costs of conventional construction, questioning whether the prefabrication of homes in factories can be streamlined to increase productivity and reduce costs. The premise of Cover is that the entire manner in which homes are prefabricated needs to be completely reconsidered.
Rivas, having learned from his previous work in construction and prefabrication, and Joseph, who specializes in web development and 3D animation, combined their skills and set out to redesign the methods and materials of prefabrication from the ground up. Understanding the need for technology-driven mass-customization, the two reached out to engineers from companies, including Tesla, SpaceX, and Apple, that use production lines to manufacture their products. The resulting collaboration across disciplines yielded a technology company that builds homes, rather than a conventional architecture firm.
Alexis and Jemuel credit their Cooper Union education for shaping their problem-solving skills. In reflecting on their efforts, Dean Tehrani noted “Alexis and Jemuel demonstrate how their pedagogical challenges involved problems of making that, through their ingenuity, could be scaled up to impact production at the industrial level. In them, I see a conceptual precision — what I like to think is a cornerstone of Cooper culture — that has the ability to impact thinking that can be transposed from the academic realm into practice, indeed changing practice entirely as we know it today.”
Summarizing the Cover experience to date, Alexis noted “Home building is slow, expensive, unpredictable, and usually low quality. At Cover, our mission is to make thoughtfully designed and well-built homes for everyone. Homes that improve people's daily lives, reflect our modern way of living, embrace progress, and are uncompromising in their design and performance... What we’re doing is using technology to raise the bar for conventional construction so that this kind of thorough design work can be applied to all homes — not just
the ultra-high-end segment.”
POSTED ON: February 16, 2021
Assistant Professor Adjunct Anna Bokov has just published Avant-Garde as Method (Park Books, 2020), a groundbreaking study on the early Soviet Union's Higher Art and Technical Studios, known as Vkhutemas. Though ten times the size of the Bauhaus and equally influential, Vkhutemas was—until recently—largely forgotten by art and design history. Bokov’s comprehensive and richly illustrated volume is the definitive reference work on a pioneering school and pedagogy that has had a lasting influence on Modernism.
Throughout the 1920s and ’30s Vkhutemas adopted what it called the “objective method” to facilitate instruction on an immense scale. The school was the first to implement mass art and technology education, which was seen as essential to the Soviet Union’s dominant modernist paradigm. Bokov’s work explores the nature of Soviet art and technology education, showing that Vkhutemas combined longstanding academic ideas and practices with nascent industrial era ones to initiate a new type of exploratory pedagogy—one that drew its strength from continuous feedback and exchange between students and educators. After elaborating on the ways that Vkhutemas challenged established canons of academic tradition by replacing them with open-ended inquiry, Bokov shows how this inquiry was articulated in architectural and urban projects in the school’s advanced studios.
Professor Anthony Vidler notes of Avant-Garde as Method, “This book will be a revelation to scholars and the general public, positioning Vkhutemas as an equal pedagogical force to the Bauhaus in the shaping of the Modern movement in architecture and design.” The School of Architecture is also pleased to be sharing Bokov’s work via Vkhutemas: Laboratory of the Avant-Garde, 1920 – 1930, an exhibition planned for the Arthur A. Houghton Jr. Gallery in early 2022.
POSTED ON: January 26, 2021
Young & Ayata, a Brooklyn-based design office co-founded by Assistant Professor Michael Young, has received a 2021 AIANY Design Award for its recently completed DL1310 Apartments in Mexico City. Developed in partnership with a local collaborating firm, Michan Architecture, the project is a four-story multifamily building with seven one-to-two bedroom apartments above a basement parking garage. The client’s desire to maximize the building’s footprint and height prompted the designers to focus on its apertures:
"In order to allow light, view, and ventilation to all sides of the building, a scheme was developed to manipulate the windows into something familiar yet subtly strange. The rectangular windows are rotated into the building’s facade, resulting in two ruled surfaces at the top and bottom and transforming the window into an inverted trapezoidal bay. As the windows rotate in, the slabs appear to pull at the head and sill. This results in a facade that is both extremely blunt in its flatness and is also a dynamic bas-relief of smooth, undulating shadows. These windows also produced different interior moments as the shifting facade met the standardized unit layout. Views out from the interior became small events of forced oblique perspective as one looked both out and down the street at the same time, making each unit unique as it approached the enclosure."
Linking his design practice with his teaching, Young notes of the project: "In the fall of 2016, the third-year design studio at Cooper had the opportunity to travel to Mexico City. There we saw firsthand the incredible craft of concrete construction in Mexico, the boldness of an approach to architectural abstraction, and the subtle sophistication of curving ruled surfaces, such as those built by Felix Candela. With the DL1310 apartment building, we wanted to pay homage to these traditions while acknowledging contemporary digital design methods."
Photographs by Raphael Gamo.