Selected Undergraduate Design Studio Projects--Thesis 2014-15

 

Professors David Turnbull, Hayley Eber, Pep Aviles, Theodore Kofman

The Cooper Union is a place where the Fundamentals of Architecture have been cherished for more than 150 years. In the 1980’s a decade of work and careful curriculum design lead to a definitive account of ‘fundamentals’ in relation to the Education of an Architect, upper-case E, upper-case A. Both reified, almost sacred and with hind-sight, perhaps, rather ostentatious and more than a little bit ‘grand’. This account that was exhibited, published and discussed, crept consciously or unconsciously into almost every architecture school’s curriculum. Problems that had not really been problematic became the ‘problems’ that an enormous number of young architectural students discovered, addressed and resolved in some way in a project or two – typically somewhere in the middle of their architectural education. Everyone learnt something about architecture and for that we should be grateful.

There is nothing like a bit of plausible close scrutiny to confirm the status of the overlooked as looked over … allowing the already excessively visible to remain preeminent.

While a few years ago many of us felt that The Cooper Union should look outward, be less self-conscious, and more public; the publicity that we have seen emerge in the past few weeks, cultivated over the past few years, is not exactly what we had in mind. This affects everyone.

The School of Architecture is literally ‘interregnum’, in between, in many ways. But as is often the case in such periods, it is more vital, and more speculative than it has been for a while. Like inter-personal conflict, institutional instability can produce somewhere, somehow, enough calm, quiet-time and reflexive, empathetic responsiveness that real growth is possible toward an emotional, philosophically cogent and ethical architectural maturity – redefining architectural practice. This is an extraordinary moment for the School. It is not a ‘tipping-point’, is not a symptom of ‘reinvention’, but, rather precisely, involves the careful, patient transformation of the fundamentals that we knew, know and value.

How do we know that this time will be memorable for more than its outwardly awkward signifiers? Well, we do not – but we can feel it, smell it and touch it. And, what we do know is that the work is good, often very good, the ‘problems’ that our students are addressing are real and often urgent. The ‘fundamentals’ are in play, purposefully, and architects are being educated.

 

Projects & Links

  • 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.