Master of Architecture II Summer 2015


Professor Diana Agrest
Instructor Yael Agmon

The Critical Moment: Process as Production
This exhibition presents the work of the 2015-16 Master of Architecture II Graduate Design Studio, focusing on Thesis projects but presenting a selection of work from the entire academic year. The projects represent an approach that, without prescribed boundaries, challenges the established limits of architecture through critical and visionary responses to contemporary issues, while simultaneously critically re-thinking architectural discourse itself. Rather than a short-term problem solving approach, the studio emphasizes research as an integral part of the design process, making process itself the essential operational realm within which potential transformations can be discovered and revealed.

Prior to the development of the Thesis project, the fall semester Advanced Design Research Studio focused on the urban environment of Manhattan as the determining factor of architecture. The work researched means to transform the structure and organization of the city by activating latent ecological conditions through innovative means of representation in the physical, cultural, and technological context. The studio proposed a rezoning of New York City in relation to environmental forces, considering space as environment.  

Nature was the subject of the studio in the spring semester, from the philosophical and scientific discourses that have explained it throughout history to the present. A different dimension of time and scale was the object of this exploration, through drawings and models that – developed through the eyes and tools of the architect – focused on the materiality and forces of natural phenomena that took billions or millions of years to develop and thousands of years for transformations to be perceptible, until the most recent past, where processes of transformation have accelerated.

The Thesis work represents individual explorations into issues critical to architectural and urban discourse at the present time, without pre-established disciplinary or spatial boundaries. The projects address a myriad of critical issues affecting architectural practice and theory today, ranging from urban theory to the present condition of globalization and the continual emergence of new scientific developments and technologies. Drawing and other representational media are emphasized as essential tools for thought in the process of exploration and transformation, not just as presentation techniques.

Thesis subjects include The City through Film: The Virtual and the Real, Hide and Seek: Surveillance in Manhattan, The Cosmic Order – Gyeongbokgung Palace, Algae as Habitat, Performative Space: Echoes in Pompeii, Ephemeral Domesticity for a Transient Culture, Accessible Housing, Istanbul through Dante’s Inferno, and Geopolitical Space: Meridians and Time Lines.

The exhibition illuminates the students’ yearlong productive research using texts, photography, drawing, film, technology, science, and history to develop innovative programs while expanding the limits of architectural discourse through configurations and narratives that bring forth potential solutions that may not be obvious.

- Professor Diana Agrest, FAIA

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Projects & Links

  • 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.