Professor Diana Agrest's Film Premieres at MoMA

POSTED ON: June 24, 2013

The Making of an Avant Garde, film still, 2012

The Making of an Avant Garde, film still, 2012


The Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies 1967-1984

A documentary written, produced and directed by Diana Agrest

About the film:

The Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies, founded in 1967 with close ties to The Museum of Modern Art, made New York the global center for architectural debate and redefined architectural discourse in the United States. A place of immense energy and effervescence, its founders and participants were young and hardly known at the time but would ultimately shape architectural practice and theory for decades. They included Peter Eisenman, Kenneth Frampton, Emilio Ambasz, Richard Meier, Charles Gwathmey, Mario Gandelsonas, Diana Agrest, Rem Koolhaas, Rafael Moneo, Anthony Vidler, Frank Gehry, Aldo Rossi, and Philip Johnson. Agrest's film documents and explores the Institute's fertile beginnings and enduring significance as a locus for the avant-garde.

The film was received with great excitement and enthusiasm by a full house and celebrated with a reception at the MoMA after a Q&A, where more informal discussions followed. The general reaction was that the film managed a dynamic, constantly animated and captivating pace while dealing with a typically static and serious subject. This is the first document produced on the IAUS since its closure in 1984. It includes original super8 footage filmed by Diana Agrest and is the only moving image document of the place in existence. 

"It is not experienced as a didactic information driven piece, but as an organic, flowing, fun, sexy and intelligently inspirational film about a unique group who changed the course of architectural perception permanently." - a comment from a member of the public.

The event was organized by MoMA's Department of Architecture and Design and Barry Bergdoll, Philip Johnson Chief Curator of the Architecture Department.

  • 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.