Mexico City Reflections

POSTED ON: October 10, 2016

With Professors Maria Gonzalez Pendas and Mersiha Veledar

For the past several decades the Third Year Design Studio has engaged in an architectural analysis project. These have been wonderfully creative exercises that undertook the question of how a design speculation relates to disciplinary precedents, seeking to understand and transform them towards creative work on the part of the student.

This semester, for the first time in the school's history, we were able to combine the analysis project with a travel visit to see a robust array of building projects first hand. The trip to Mexico City and surrounding areas allowed the students to witness the buildings they are analyzing in their phenomena of material, space and light, their programmatic activity, their urban relationship, and their cultural context. The precedents were no longer mediated drawings and photographs, but real things in the world, with all the associated discoveries and problems that everyday existence brings to architecture.

The trip also allowed the students to immerse themselves in the culture of Mexico City. In this aspect it was not only important to see these projects, but to connect with the larger situations that architecture always exists within and springs from. The site visits were complimented by meeting with distinguished local architects, by lectures and discussions, both formal and informal, where the backgrounds of a place began to leap into direct relation with the architecture under investigation.

It was an amazing opportunity and a rewarding experience that will influence not only the work done by the students this semester, but hopefully the work they continue to produce as architects in the world.

The trip to Mexico City was also covered in The Cooper Pioneer, a biweekly student newspaper for The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. The article includes comments from students about their travel experiences.

  • 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.