A Message from the Dean | 2021 End of Year Show

POSTED ON: June 9, 2021

The occasion of the annual End of Year Show is the one moment when we come together as students, faculty, and alumni in dialogue with our larger community to celebrate the speculations of pedagogy. For two years now, we have had to imagine new ways of bringing closure to academic work completed during a pandemic, and, in turn, to share what we do with a larger audience. Last year’s virtual platform re-enacted the spatial and formal framework of the Foundation Building, if only to offer it new architectural possibilities. In turn, the opening up of New York City at the end of this past semester has allowed us to imagine other ways of projecting ourselves into the city. The western face of the Foundation Building, the colonnade, has often served this function, using its arches to frame each project within its civic scale. This year, with scaffolding stretched around the entire building, the prospect of engaging the colonnade seemed even more tenuous, and yet the scaffolding’s shelter has created unpredictable opportunities. Its shade prompted the imperative of light: with fourteen monitors, the content of this year’s work is coordinated and programmed synthetically as part of a larger urban choreography, emanating out of the colonnade and speaking to the scale of the urban space beyond.
In what will be remembered as a year entirely incarcerated by the two-dimensional space of the screen, these monitors bring to life the personal tablets of each student, now animated for the neighborhood to see, and perchance to critique. If the life of New York City has already changed in the past weeks, with masks off and the hustle of the city back in stride, we have also reckoned with the fact that many are still stuck in other countries, time zones, and far-off lands. Thus, online we get to peer into these speculations as a parallel world. And a world it has been! The charged themes that have given rise to the urgencies of this past year—some timely, though mostly belated—have found their way into the dialogue of our studios, seminars, and thesis projects. The delayed Venice Biennale asks us “How Will We All Live Together?” The injustices that surround the murder of George Floyd and the many others that succumbed to his fate, the individual isolation experienced globally by everyone on this planet as a result of the pandemic, the climate crisis and the dim possibility of its mitigation as evident in the dormancy of global human activities, the nefarious role of technologies in dictating the truths and fictions of our times—these were just some of the themes probed at all levels in our pedagogies. We worked on schedule, in between schedules, and we worked across multiple time zones. We also worked as individuals and groups. Ultimately, we came out of this together, united in a common project focused on how architecture as a discipline may speak to the world at large, and how its forms, spaces, and materialities implicate the charged debates of our time. We have learned much this year, and some of it might yet stay with us. This exhibition and its companion website are a document of this time, and perchance the blueprint of those lessons.
Nader Tehrani
June, 2021

  • 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.