Selected Undergraduate Design Studio Projects--Thesis 2013-14


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Professors David Turnbull, Pep Aviles, Hayley Eber, Cristina Goberna, Elizabetta Terragni & Theodore Kofman

May 2013. The Architecture School lobby was painted black, it was empty. We kept it that way. Standing in silence before moving to the Foundation Building’s first floor colonnade to talk about the School and about the work of the students, it was a review that was not quite a review, more of a rite of passage. A long table held carefully selected objects, drawings, books, projectors, maps and a square piece of turf bisected by a white painted line, two inches wide —two sides, home and away, them and us – positions taken. A simple confrontation. The end of an extraordinary year with remarkable students making exceptional work…. Former CIA employee and NSA contractor Edward Snowden flew to Hong Kong and the first documents released by Snowden to Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald and filmmaker Laura Poitras, uncovering the existence of numerous global surveillance programs, were published. In Syria the death toll approached 100,000. Our students graduated. The End of Year Show opened. It was bright, full of life and hope, a testament to the creativity and vitality of the thesis class. But the school had changed and would change more significantly during the summer and throughout the fall.

September 2013. The thesis class entered this new Cooper Union, which appeared to be the same but was not. Charged with setting a goal for themselves and defining their own path through the year, they started with a short project called Messages & Messengers, an alibi perhaps, certainly a trick that would provoke a question, a thesis. In a world where uncertainty, anxiety, paranoia, fear, distrust and disbelief have almost comprehensively replaced any sense of comfort and security, with no firmness, too much commodity and only the most emaciated expression of delight, it comes as no surprise that the work this year tracks at least two paths, that might appear to be irreconcilable, but maybe are not: retreat and amelioration. 

May 2014. Turning back the clock to a time of sense and sensibilities that were shared or looking forward to a new reality that is patched up, backed up and re-booted so that it will work better, more or less. Inevitably a third way is also apparent this year, an escape from the complication that comes with going backwards or forwards, as you never know quite what or who you might meet on the journey. This involves inventing some kind of parallel world, where like a bitcoin miner, the student architect plays complex games in an alternate reality to make things that actually have value in our reality. All three paths and the decision about the path to be taken raise questions about the autonomy, semi-autonomy or quasi-autonomy of our discipline. As ever, the ghosts whisper in the early hours and the best work reminds us that however confusing the world has become, inside and outside, however cacophonous the ambient noise, a still, clear voice can be heard that belongs to nobody but can be shared by everyone. Architecture.



  • 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.