Bridging the Megacity: Cooper at the Seoul Biennale

POSTED ON: September 8, 2023

Site Model

One of three site models produced by Nima Javidi's Design IV studio, spring 2023. Photo by Katie Park.

The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture is thrilled to announce its participation in the 4th Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism in Seoul, South Korea. Work by twelve current thesis students from their spring 2023 Design IV studio section with Associate Professor Adjunct Nima Javidi is now on view from September 1 – October 31 in the Biennale’s Global Studios exhibition. The students who participated in the studio and whose work is being exhibited are Jihoo Ahn, Razaq Alabdulmughni, Jaemin Baek, Laela Baker, Aerin Chavez, Ji Yong Chung, Martina Duque Gonzalez, Alex Han, Annie He, Jiwon Heo, Rebecca John, and Xinyuan Zhang.

Hybrid Mats
At the invitation of Leif Høgfeldt Hansen, curator of the Global Studios section, Professor Nader Tehrani encouraged Javidi to organize his studio around the exhibition’s theme “Bridging the Megacity,” a prompt to consider bridge designs for three sites along the Han River bisecting Seoul. Thirty colleges and universities worldwide submitted sixty-five designs for projects sited near Noeul Park, Nodeul Island, and Seoul Forest. The Cooper Union was one of a dozen participating schools invited to exhibit its student submissions in detail. 
Javidi’s studio used the Biennale’s prompt to investigate a new paradigm for bridge design. Moving away from the entangled relationship between structure and path configurations common in bridge design, this paradigm explored a fine-grain montage between patterns of ecology (waterways, windways…), structure (rhythm of columns, arches, shells…), and human settlement to create a thick, light, newly constructed, layered ground over the Han River. 

Image 1
Design IV submission on display at the Biennale. Photo by Moon Joo Lee.

Using Seoul and its unique geological condition as a starting point, the studio considered multilayered mat structures that can accommodate, through their thickness and crust, the passage and continuity of waterways, windways, and human inhabitation. This reading of infrastructure, because it operates at both human and ecological scales, informed design approaches that afford ecological continuities while allowing human settlement as an overlay. The resulting mat generated from different rhythms of structure, access, and ecological flow required reworking and montage with the edges of the bridge to create a seamless and meaningful connection with urbanity on each side of the river. 

As a whole, “Bridging the Megacity” addresses the complex web of challenges that define the modern megacity of tomorrow, and its projects evoke unity and a bridge between cultures, ideas, and aspirations, transcending geographical borders to contribute to a global dialogue on sustainability and urban resilience. The bridges are not just physical connections over the Han River; they embody the multifaceted solutions that our cities demand for the future. In this era of unprecedented urbanization, cities worldwide grapple with a pressing need for collective spaces that foster interaction and community engagement. These bridges exemplify the fusion of design and purpose, offering platforms for ‘soft traffic,’ social convergence, artistic expression, and cultural exchange. They are not just functional conduits; they are vibrant arenas—addressing issues from biodiversity and water management to urban farming and air quality—that catalyze connections and invigorate the social fabric of the megacity.

Seoul Biennale
The Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism was first launched in 2017 to address urban and architecture-related challenges resulting from rapid urban growth in one of the world’s most densely populated cities. Since its inauguration, the theme of urbanism and architecture has been pivotal in reinstating Seoul as a human-centered and eco-friendly city.

The Biennale aims to harness Seoul as a testbed as it explores and seeks solutions for urban issues in global cities. It is composed of five sections: a Thematic Exhibition featuring the key theme of each edition, a Cities Exhibition inviting leading public projects from around the world, an On-site Project which engages with Seoul’s most present issues, and Global Studios and Educational Programs, which establish discussions where the people of Seoul—global and domestic experts, public institutions, and citizens alike—can participate in drawing up a common future for the city.
The 4th Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism continues ongoing discussions from its past editions—Imminent Commons, Collective City, and Resilient City—with a focus on ‘Land Urbanism’ and ‘Seoul.’

Image 2
Design IV installation view at the Biennale. Photo by Ji Yong (Jacob) Chung.


Tags: Nima Javidi

Daniel Libeskind AR’70 will be awarded the Dresden Peace Prize

POSTED ON: December 2, 2022


Daniel Libeskind; © Stefan Ruiz.

On Sunday, February 19, 2023, Daniel Libeskind AR’70 will receive the 14th International Peace Prize from the Friends of Dresden at the Semperoper, Dresden’s iconic opera house. Libeskind, who is the first architect to receive this award, was selected, according to the jury, for “a very special part of his work, which can be referred to as memorial architecture…[he has] created an appropriate architectural framework for remembering the victims of the Holocaust, war and terror in recent decades.” 
In their award announcement, the Friends of Dresden further note that Libeskind’s “approach leaves no room for ignorance and relativisation. The form, the architecture itself sets the course for remembrance. Whether it is the Jewish Museum in Berlin, the 9/11 Memorial in New York, the Imperial War Museum in Manchester or the Holocaust Memorial in Amsterdam. His work also includes the Military History Museum in Dresden, whose architecture has become an anti-war museum and the most important place in Dresden for coming to terms with the consequences of militarism and wars.”

Military History Museum
Military History Museum, Dresden; © Hufton+Crow Photography

The Dresden Peace Prize has been awarded annually at the Semperoper since 2010. Previous recipients include Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mikhail Gorbachev, pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim, war photographer James Nachtwey, former Soviet officer Stanislav Petrov, and journalist Daniel Ellsberg.
Daniel Libeskind is the founder and principal architect of Studio Libeskind. Renowned for his ability to evoke cultural memory in buildings, Libeskind is informed by a deep commitment to music, philosophy, literature, and poetry, and a desire to create architecture that is resonant, original, and sustainable.
Libeskind established his architectural studio in Berlin, Germany, in 1989 after winning the competition to build the Jewish Museum in Berlin. In February 2003, Studio Libeskind moved its headquarters from Berlin to New York City to oversee the master plan for the World Trade Center redevelopment, which is being realized in Lower Manhattan today.

Jewish Museum Berlin
Jewish Museum, Berlin; © Hufton+Crow Photography

Studio Libeskind is involved in designing and realizing a diverse array of urban, cultural, and commercial projects around the globe. The Studio has completed buildings that range from museums and concert halls to convention centers, university buildings, hotels, shopping centers and residential towers. As Principal Design Architect for Studio Libeskind, Mr. Libeskind speaks widely on the art of architecture in universities and professional summits. His architecture and ideas have been the subject of many articles and exhibitions, influencing the field of architecture and the development of cities and culture.
Mr. Libeskind lives in New York with his wife and business partner, Nina Libeskind.  

Namenmonument Amsterdam
Namenmonument, Amsterdam; © Kees Hummel


It Cannot Always Be Night

POSTED ON: September 22, 2022


This project—It Cannot Always Be Night by Peter Møller Rasmussen—is the final post in a series drawn from At the Intersection of Ideas and Material Conditions, a Third Floor Hallway Gallery exhibition showcasing work by architects, researchers, and teachers at the Royal Danish Academy. The exhibition is part of an ongoing dialogue between faculty and students of The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture and the Institute of Architecture and Culture at the Royal Danish Academy. Faculty work from both schools was recently shown in Practices of Risk, Control, and Productive Failure, an exhibition held at the Brønshøj Water Tower in Copenhagen, Denmark from May 17 to June 10, 2022.

Of his project, Rasmussen notes:

This summer, the fourth Dinesen & Royal Danish Academy Summer School took place in the countryside of Southern Denmark. As in previous years, we added simple buildings, rooms, and programs to an abandoned farm. In time, we imagine the place will become something like a residency or a field station for the Academy, and for Dinesen—a wood floor manufacturer—a place of making and doing, a situation, a provisional school, and a place of community and strange opportunities. 

The summer school is held in a rural area which, from all societal and economic perspectives, is losing its coherence. Thus, the summer school inevitably addresses questions connected with the deterioration of an old agrarian order. Losing, however, isn’t hard to master, and it has its own ambience. And frankly, on a daily basis we are not very distressed by the slow pull toward the unstable, the paltry, and the stagnant. At the very least, the level of expectation is delightfully low. 

If the Danish countryside is in a crisis—just like everywhere else—it seems itself to be strangely unaware, and to whatever extent it is aware, how could such a narrative govern everyday life? Even if you are not ready for the day, it cannot always be night. (1) The practical and situated unfolding of a day, or of a two-week summer school, will inevitably present its own joys: those of creation, of collaboration, of solving smaller problems, and of the unforeseen encounter. And this joy will inevitably be directed towards—and itself directed by— what is available and near, paltry or not. 

To care for a place, to be concerned with it, to dream and make plans for it, is not the necessary labor for which joy is the subsequent reward. Concern does not stand in such a transactional relation with joy. Being situated gives us this insight. In the words of Jean-Luc Nancy, “Joy knows concern, and is known by it” (2). Joy arrives, it does so on its own terms, it is not a fulfillment and it is not an eventuality to be expected, excluded, or provoked (3).  The idea of joy as a reward—or of joy as the abrogation or removal of concern—belongs to a regime of transactional intentions that governs much contemporary architectural practice and discourse. It belongs to every new tourist magnet in the countryside called ‘an experience.’ It belongs to the problem-and-solution narratives that legitimize every new real estate investment project. 


When we direct our attention to what is near and immediate, we lose sight of the rural crises, the economic, ecological, demographic, etc., as one-size-fits-all legitimizing narratives. Instead, they emerge as a set of highly specific material and existential limitations, inducing particular modes of concern (double edged, knowing joy and being known by it), attention to what we are bodily or materially exposed to, a need to make do with whatever is available, and a taste for the paltry and elegiac. And we need to make ourselves accustomed to strange and unfamiliar standards for value, joy, and reward. Restorative and creative intentions gradually replace transactional intentions. 

What might guide us? Maybe the neighbors, who entertain us with their strange mix of anecdotes and technical details: the four sisters living in a stable; the many different qualities of hay, hewers of wood and drawers of water; their experience with tractor slippage in various compositions of clay soil; the body language of cars and the habits of eels. Maybe the neighbors, who quote both from Jan Guillou and from poets whose names are long forgotten, and who occasionally— with a gesture, dialect, or figure of speech—reveal their respect for a certain delicate and ungovernable economy of joy and concern. 

1) Gwendolyn Brooks, “Speech to the Young,” from Blacks (Chicago, IL: Third World Press, 1991).
2) Jean Luc Nancy, “Shattered Love” in The Inoperative Community (Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1991), p. 107.
3) Ibid., p.106.


Peter Møller Rasmussen is an architect and Ph.D. fellow at the Royal Danish Academy, Institute of Architecture and Culture. In his Ph.D. project, he examines precarity, exposedness, and uncertainty as formative forces in rural dwellings and settlements. His project examined both traditional and contemporary housing in the Danish countryside, and vernacular Georgian wooden building culture. The works shown here are the result of the Dinesen & Royal Danish Academy Summer Schools. Rasmussen organizes these schools in collaboration with Hans Peter Dinesen. The fishing hut shown here was designed in collaboration with his students, Søren Vadstrup and Christian Vennerstrøm. 

Photos by Hampus Berndtson. 

Islands: Jacob S. Bang & Anne Romme AR'05

POSTED ON: September 22, 2022


This post—the third in a series highlighting projects from At the Intersection of Ideas and Material Conditions—features Islands, a project by Jacob S. Bang and Anne Romme AR'05, both faculty at the Royal Danish Academy.

The exhibition, currently on viewing the Third Floor Hallway Gallery, is part of an ongoing dialogue between faculty and students of The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture and the Institute of Architecture and Culture at the Royal Danish Academy. Faculty work from both schools was recently shown in Practices of Risk, Control, and Productive Failure, an exhibition held at the Brønshøj Water Tower in Copenhagen, Denmark from May 17 to June 10, 2022.

Romme and Bang describe their project as follows:

“Despite its well-defined boundaries, the island is a very fuzzy entity” states landscape architect Stefania Staniscia. (1) As a result of their geographic reality, islands, throughout history, have been used for isolation, political separation, and quarantine. Yet they are also used extensively as metaphors, embodying a variety of dichotomies without necessarily resolving them. The project Islands represents such an unresolved fuzziness. It investigates the island as having a non-binary relationship to its surroundings. It asks: What is an island if understood as an artistic problem of combining technology and accident, intent, and force? 

Islands is a manifesto for giving form to new water-based inhabitation for a flooded future—a system of structures that simultaneously function as flood barriers, mooring platforms, and housing. Forms which are eaten up by internal structures, like a hermit crab or an abandoned cocoon. Morphologically, the structures are akin to coral reefs and algae. Sounds and smells come from the ocean. Their rhythms are in tune with the tide. They contain a seaweed harvesting plant, an obsolete oil rig, a birth clinic, and a crematorium at one and the same time. 

All structures are in a constant state of flux, in an ever-changing symbiosis between accumulation and deterioration. The architect Raimund Abraham noted “While you build the wall, you shall destroy the stones.” (2) Likewise, the sculptor Willy Ørskov reminds us that building up and breaking down are not just opposites, but also necessary forces of creation. (3) It seems ever more relevant that architects work within these opposing, yet productive forces. Islands is inseparable from the working process in which the intentional and the unintentional are given equal value. The process of making and negotiation is inseparable from its form and intent.  As we see an urgent need to find models for how architecture and urban development can grow organically and gradually, we engage directly in a process which does exactly that. Every piece of work passes between the two of us numerous times, as well as between digital and analog tools and methods. 

There is no end result, as such. Sometimes the final object becomes so perforated or fragmented that it disintegrates. Other times, it merges with other islands to become an archipelago, or becomes its own double by being placed in relationship to a large mirror. 

It is our intention to push our methods and materials towards boundaries, where the unexpected, and sometimes the undesirable, happens. Glitches in the transformation from digital to physical are accepted. We intentionally undermine the idea of the single author, the artist genius. We ‘destroy’ and erase parts of each other’s work, and allow for misinterpretations, faults, and mistakes. Just as we cannot always control water and keep it contained, our artistic research incorporates failure as a productive part of our practice. 

1) Staniscia, S. “The “Island Effect”: Reality or Metaphor?” New Geographies 08 “Islands,” eds. Daou, D. and P. Perez-Ramos, Harvard University Press.
2) Abraham Raimund, [Un]built, Wien, 1996.
3) Ørskov, Willy, Aflaesning af objekter, Copenhagen, 1966.


Jacob Sebastian Bang is an associate professor at the Royal Danish Academy and the head of its BA program Helhed og Del/Whole and Part. His research interests are architecture and representation, and artistic methodology. He works within multiple media—painting, drawing, model-making, and graphical techniques. 

Anne Romme AR'05 is an associate professor and the head of the Finder Sted/Taking Place program. She also runs an independent architecture practice invested in critical, experimental projects. Her work ranges from theoretical inquiries into the commons in architecture, to digital fabrication and the design of a building system based on pure plate shell structures. 

  • 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.