The School

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The mission of The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture is to provide for its students the finest professional education available within an intellectual environment that fosters and expands their creative capacities and sensibilities and establishes the foundation for a creative professional life. The school is committed to the belief that one of society’s prime responsibilities is toward learning and education in the deepest sense: that the exercise of individual creativity within a willing community is a profoundly social act. Fundamental to the mission of the school is the maintenance of an atmosphere in which freedom of thought and exploration can flourish, where students can explore and utilize their strengths and individual talents, interests and modes of working, to their highest potential.

The traditional and essential skills of drawing, model-making and design development are complemented by a full investigation of the analytical and critical uses of digital technologies. The study of world architecture and urbanism is deepened by the understanding of individual cultures, environmental, and technological issues at every scale. The theory of the discipline, past and present, is investigated through the close analysis of critical texts and related to the theory and practice of other arts, such as public art, film and video. The position of the School of Architecture, together with the Schools of Art and Engineering and the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, offers a unique opportunity for interaction and interdisciplinary research and experience. 

In recent years the school has developed the studio curriculum in ways that have reinforced its strong traditions of design and craft while investigating problems that reflect the changing conditions of contemporary practice,  the urgent issues resulting from rapid urbanization and the need for environmental and cultural conservation.  In these studio experiments students and faculty together explore the potential contributions of architecture to our changing world, redoubling their efforts to imagine a positive future for an architecture that is, after all, a discipline of design.  This task does not involve a wholesale rejection of the past – our traditions and historical experience – for what has changed are not the principles, but rather the determinants and the materials of design. We are in the process of re-learning the poetics of a space of life: of air and water, of geology and geography, of culture and society, of poetics that lie deeply within these elemental forces.  On this re-framing – programmatically, technologically, and above all formally – rests not simply the future of architecture, but of our life in the world.  Gradually, out of this process, architecture, once more, may become a force through which life is transcribed into art in order to enhance life.

  • 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.