Selected Undergraduate Design Studio Projects--Architectonics, Fall 2014


Professors David Gersten, Rikke Jorgenson, Wes Rozen

Building The Cooper Union: A Model of Education

“This building has scarcely been absent from my thoughts a single day, for nearly thirty years. I have labored for it by night and by day with an intensity of desire that can never be explained.” –  Peter Cooper

This has been a wonderfully difficult year, a complex year, a hinge year in the long history of this great institution.  At its core The Cooper Union is a social political and poetic project grounded in education, ethics and imagination, a project to remove barriers and elevate mankind through the human right of education.

Each year, in the first year studio we work to embody questions; to create situations within which the students can inhabit questions and create new works.  This year we had to find the questions and architectonics that could embody this moment in the life of the institution. We set out with two basic gestures. First, we recognized and embraced this class, this group of people, as the continuation of the 155-year project of The Cooper Union. We placed the weight of the school in their hands, we asked them to measure, draw and build the school itself, to care for the school in the most profound sense of ‘building it.’  We built a model of The Cooper Union while acknowledging that The Cooper Union is itself a model of education.

Second, we knew that we had to open the institution to the city and reestablish the linkages to the cultures of New York.  After much discussion, we brought the model on a journey through the city, engaging in a series of duets. From Abraham Lincoln in Union Square, to the Flatiron building where Dean Hejduk built the Conciliator, all the way up to the New York City Public Library, a sanctuary of knowledge that is FREE.  We did this as a social poetic act of architecture, a gesture of ethics and imagination, of quite literally caring for the 'model' of The Cooper Union and reminding ourselves and the city that we have long, deep, bonds, promises and linkages that we must make visible and struggle to keep; to keep buoyant and to keep alive.


  • 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.