End of Year Exhibitions 2011-12

Design II, Spring 2012 Architectonics, Fall 2011 Design III, 2011-12 Design IV, Spring 2012 Thesis, 2011-12
Design II, Spring 2012

End of Year Exhibition, 2011-12

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This year’s exhibition provides an opportunity to assess the varied and imaginative ways that students answer the call for an architecture that at once continues the fundamental traditions of drawing and design that have always marked out the school for distinction while seeking to confront the rapidly changing conditions of theory and practice. Architects are faced with the need to re-think their strategies in the light of the urgent questions raised by increasing scarcities – of shelter, food, water and energy. Many of these issues have to be seen in a holistic and global frame of reference and, of course, not all of them can to be solved by architecture. But architecture, envisaged at its most expanded scale, as well at its most intimate, can and should take these problems into account, and define precisely where it might intervene in order to ameliorate or moderate, and certainly not exacerbate them. Beginning with the First Year and through each studio and course to the Graduate studios, and with the programs of The Cooper Union Institute for Sustainable design, students are investigating these issues at all scales, using their skills and knowledge to recognize the fragile contract between human settlement and the environment, urbanization and suburbanization seen in the light of what John McHale, researching the “future of the future” in the late 1960s, termed “the ecological context.”

The First Year studios, while introducing new students of architecture to the formal, arterial, and programmatic principles of architectonics, operate as research laboratories in form and space, with students working in groups investigating the parameters of visual perception, light, orientation, inhabitation and structure, The Second Year explored the ramifications of advanced topological design in a creative three-dimensional extrusion of the classic Cooper Union “Nine-Square-Grid” problem, and went on to study the complex implications of entry: their “doors” revealed all the exciting (and problematic) possibilities of the interstitial space of passage through a wall – the first step into inside space from outside. The Third Year Comprehensive studio immersed itself in the analysis of the inter-relations among the myriad components of architecture, from regulations, to program, structure, building and environmental technologies, ending the year with proposals for an elementary charter school in Harlem. This proved an exciting program that engaged the students in a creative field of social, educational and spatial relations. Fourth Year began with a large-scale study of the suburban environment, bringing together the insights of landscape architecture, urban renewal and ecological analysis in order to propose varied responses to the continuing, and escalating, problems of suburbia. The year continued with the examination of civic space within the urban fabric in relation to the idea of the “Templum” in the contemporary city. The Fifth Year Thesis, a full year research and design studio that allows each student to indentify a problem field – local or global – considered especially susceptible to architectural intervention at different scales. Studies ranged from the challenge of declining agricultural production and aquifer exhaustion in the Mid-West to the construction of “memory theaters” in the context of Australia’s checkered history with its indigenous populations, the potential of landscape ideas to transform urban re-formulation, the research into new materials and spatial techniques for going beyond orthodox geometrical design, the crisis of the growing “informal” cities of the favelas, to finding ways through drawing in which philosophical thought might be explored in its three-dimensional implications. The Graduate studio looked at the structure and form of urban regions in order to draw out their environmental and programmatic potentials, followed by a study of large scale landscapes and their possibilities considered as architectures of nature.

This diversity of new questions, as exhibited in this year’s show, is guided by a powerful philosophy forged over the more than forty-five years of educational practice at Cooper and sustained by the continuing reverberations of Peter Cooper’s hundred-and-fifty-year mission. The role of architecture has taken many forms over the last half-century, but the dynamic interaction of inventing and making, conceiving and constructing, remains its task and its challenge in a world increasingly divided, in economic wealth, resources, and ideologies.

–Anthony Vidler, Dean (2001-2013)

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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.