Student Work Collection

The Student Work Collection is a photographic archive of student design projects dating from the 1930s through the present. This material, which is the Archive’s core collection, documents over 4,800 student projects spanning more than eight decades of architectural pedagogy at The Cooper Union. Much of the collection’s material consists of design studio work documented for the exhibition and publication Education of an Architect: A Point of View (1971), and its second volume, Education of an Architect (1988). Since then the Archive has documented, on an annual basis, exemplary student projects selected by faculty for inclusion in the collection. Project documentation includes images of process drawings, final presentation drawings, model photographs, and supplemental material. As a whole these records provide a comprehensive narrative of the School’s evolving and influential approach to architectural education. Unique among schools of architecture, the collection is an important research asset for architecture students, faculty, and scholars worldwide, and a vital educational resource for the School’s student learning, faculty pedagogy, and public programming.

In 2016 the Archive initiated its Student Work Collection Digital Access Project, a five-year project to preserve, digitize, and catalog the collection for web-based public access. This project has been made possible by generous support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal agency; the Leon Levy Foundation; the Metropolitan New York Library Council; and the National Archives’ National Historical Publications and Records Commission. Phase I of the project’s digital collections platform launched online, in beta form, on November 13, 2019. 

The collection’s Phase I finding aid is available here.

  • 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.