Foundation Building

Old Drawing of Cooper union building

The Foundation Building opened in 1859 and marked the creation of The Cooper Union. The building—today a New York City landmark—quickly became a common meeting place for intellectuals, inventors, tinkerers, and people from across the social strata. At the time of its erection, the Foundation Building was one of the tallest in lower Manhattan. Peter Cooper required that it include a cylindrical shaft between floors in anticipation of an elevator—a device that had not yet been invented. But perhaps its greatest feature is the Great Hall.

Launch Foundation Building

For more on the architectural history of the Foundation Building see the website that accompanied the exhibition Architecture at Cooper: 1859 - 2009.

  • 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.