Third Floor Lobby, Foundation Building. Model of the Interior Renovation of the Foundation Building by John Hejduk. c. 1971.
Third Floor Lobby, Foundation Building.

The main spaces of the School of Architecture are housed on the second, third and seventh floors of the Foundation Building, a National Historic Landmark widely referred to as one of New York City’s great monuments.

When The Cooper Union opened in New York City in 1859, the physical structure of the original building closely followed Peter Cooper’s educational philosophy. The five-story Foundation Building was designed by Frederick A. Petersen in the Renaissance Revival style, with studios and classrooms above a first floor of stores open to the public. In 1890, Leopold Cyrus W. Eidlitz added studio skylights and additional floors to the building. The building exemplified not only Peter Cooper’s dedication to social mobility through education, but his recognition of the power of technology and the importance of art and design. The tallest building in New York City in 1859, this first “skyscraper” was also the first building to be designed with a rolled iron I-beam infrastructure and the first to house an elevator shaft top to bottom, although the passenger car and conveyance system for such a shaft had not yet been developed.

In 1974, John Q. Hejduk, the first Dean of the School of Architecture, completely redesigned the interior of the Foundation Building, aligning the program of the building with the pedagogy of the schools, while leaving the exterior largely unchanged. In the words of Ada Louise Huxtable, the renovation was “the best of both worlds,” with the “‘Renaissance shell intact” and the “clarity and detail of the consciously sophisticated modernism of the interior” attesting to “the creative continuity of history and art.”  The brownstone exterior of the Foundation Building was extensively restored under the direction of Platt Byard Dovell between 1999 and 2002.

  • 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.