Fall 2020 School of Architecture Message from the Deans

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

With our eyes on the Fall semester of 2020, we encourage you to please pay close attention to the campus-wide communication that went out on Saturday, June 20th, which comprehensively outlines our institutional plan.

As articulated in President Sparks’s letter, in order to make it possible for our students to continue their education remotely, and to accommodate the wide range of health-risks within our community, we will continue with online teaching in the Fall for all studio, workshop and lecture-based classes, in addition to reviews, desk crits and discussions. However, in the School Architecture where studio culture is such an vital part of our pedagogy and community, we intend to open the studio, with all the classrooms on the third floor as well as the Houghton Gallery, and therein space out the desks with respect to physical distancing protocols, in order for students to engage their studio space for making and collaborative work.

Our ability to make these spaces available will be contingent on further direction from the State of New York and an ongoing assessment that adherence to building protocols maintains an adequate level of safety.  To the extent that we can safely open the workshop on the 4th floor, we will operate it with physical distancing and scheduling protocols to minimize health risks within our community. We anticipate that the AACE Lab and 7th Floor Computer Lab will be fully operational for digital fabrication and printing, with staff available to receive and distribute student projects if presence in the building is limited by state mandate and/or appropriate health-related protocols.  

The balance of understanding the culture of the school --with its focus on design, integrated thinking and making -- has been a central part of this decision; however, the responsibilities that it involves for every single one of us cannot be over-stated, because we all stand to ensure that we respect the suggested protocols, to oversee the health and safety of each other, and to create a successful outcome from this opportunity.

In addition to space planning and facilities use, we are also devising a pedagogy to engage the online format to test new models, speculate and embrace experimentation. Through a series of curricula workshops over the summer, we plan to retool and recalibrate our courses in response to the extensive feedback we have received from the students and faculty. Some of the changes will include the clustering of courses into suites, allowing for more opportunities for collaboration and overlap, both across courses and across years. The online format is also opportune to continue and enhance our technology workshops, but now in closer overlap with classes and across possible themes, and to establish collaborations and alliances for the design studios with institutions and community groups.

In rethinking pedagogies with respect to online learning, we would remind you that the technical challenges we have faced to date are pale in comparison to the dynamism of the social, economic, and cultural implications that have come in tow. As such, beyond the pandemic, this is an opportunity to revisit a variety of themes that our community has come to voice as urgencies –among them social justice,  climate change, anti-racism, among a host of topics that stand to impact the very structure of our curriculum. Thus, these workshops should be seen as an opportunity to listen, probe and activate dialogue for what we hope will be a sustained discussion.

Central to our planning is to creatively find ways to construct a community and foster the culture of the school while online, recognizing that we need new forms of engagement. We’re exploring the concept of homerooms, both for mentorship and academic advisement, but also as a space for disciplinary engagement with select faculty in smaller groups. In our many meetings, we heard the need for a platform to recreate the pin-up wall as virtual one-room studio, where students can see work of their year, and share work across all the years, as well as come together to have serious discussions around the work, and are exploring possibilities for this interface. We also intend to expand our teaching assistantships to help with instruction and mentorship, across a range of courses.

Prior to the start of the semester, The Freshmen class will receive their own “Cooper Box” with specialized materials, tools, and resources needed for the courses they are taking, whether remotely or working in the studio.  These materials will support drawing and model building, and other hands-on work whether on campus, at home, or anywhere around the globe. 

Given the success of our spring public programming, where accessibility to and participation in lectures, reviews and events were consistently 3-4 times more attended, with guests and alumni from all over the world, we’ll continue with lectures and events online, strengthening our community to be more expansive and inclusive than ever.

This is also an opportunity to recognize each and every one of you on your contributions to the End of Year Show. The exhibition is nothing less than stellar, and we continue to receive letters of praise to you all for not only the quality of design work, but indeed the way in which the virtual platform you have engaged has become a central vehicle for creating a public conversation. The great success of the End of Year Show has demonstrated that these technologies will prove crucial for the months ahead. For the Fall semester, as we engage in hybrid learning, this will give us the opportunity to continue with gallery shows, interactive pinups and reviews, site specific hallway installations and possibly even community spaces where we can congregate, celebrate and exchange ideas.

The summer solstice of 2020 is by now behind us, but the work of our summer is set to begin. Please join us in making this a collaborative process!


Nader, Hayley!

  • 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.