September 14, 2004

The Cooper Union

How many of you have heard of the Cooper Union in New York City? Its full name is the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, it is located in the East Village and is the only "private, full-scholarship college in the United States dedicated exclusively to preparing students for the professions of art, architecture and engineering".

It is also the site of one of the most significant speeches Abraham Lincoln ever gave. It was his coming out party on the Eastern Seaboard and many consider it to be what got him elected. The speech was intended to provide a platform for Lincoln and the Republican Party and was also intended to make clear that slavery was wrong and that its spread into the new states and territories was not constitutional. Harold Holzer just wrote a very good book about the subject entitled: Lincoln at Cooper Union : The Speech That Made Abraham Lincoln President. It's on my list of books to read.

The Cooper Union is, at its heart, a place for the study of architecture. And it is now going to build a new building, according to the NY Times. A new building for architecture studios is always fraught with difficulty. Sometimes the architect of the new building is over-tempted to produce a masterpiece, since he or she knows that it will be seen by budding architects for many years to come. I have to wonder if the pressure got to the architect here:


It kind of looks like it is going to slide and fall off the building. doesn't it? Still, it sounds extraordinary:

[T]he new building evokes a delicately calibrated machine. The ground-level lobby and retail spaces will be entirely sheathed in glass and set slightly back from the street. Above, the lab and studio floors are supported by V-shaped concrete columns that give the structure a more tenuous relationship to the ground. The screenlike facade, meanwhile, is composed as a series of horizontal metal bands that will open and close to control the flow of light into the building.

The screening system will be familiar to anyone who has followed the firm's recent work. It is a virtual copy of the facade of Morphosis's Caltrans District 7 headquarters, a state building currently under construction in Los Angeles, yet the differences are meaningful.

At Caltrans, the huge mechanical screens have a belligerent quality. Set on a computerized timer, they open and close in unison according to the position of the sun. Mr. Mayne says that the Cooper building's screens will be more delicate, like a woman's nylon stocking. What is more, students will be able to control the screens from inside their studios. The effect will be more varied and unpredictable - less a vision of bureaucratic conformity than of a vertical hive buzzing with activity.

That notion of a communal hive becomes explicit on the Third Avenue facade, where a large section is cut away to reveal a curved section of the interior atrium. A series of slender glass-enclosed walkways extend along the atrium's surface, where students will be seen crossing back and forth between the various labs and studios.

The web site for the architects is pretty cool, too: Morphosis.

The Cooper Union is an interesting place. Go check it out if you find yourself in the area.

Posted by Random Penseur at September 14, 2004 08:31 AM

cool falling letters...
good morning

Posted by: standing naked at September 14, 2004 09:03 AM
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