The Cooper Union

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Professors Stephen Rustow, Felecia Davis, and Michael Young

Museum Design
The third year studio is structured as an extended exploration of a single building typology through a year-long sequence of analytical design exercises. In the fall semester each student started with the analysis of an existing building. Program issues were posed in the context of the specific constraints of the typology and are examined throughout the year with reference to historical and contemporary examples. Additionally, a major emphasis was put on the tectonic role of structural and mechanical systems as well as technological issues in construction, first as axes of analysis and then as part of an integrative design method.

The focus of this year’s studio is the art museum, a building typology that engages a discussion of historical, formal, and social issues of great architectural interest; to cite but a few of these themes:

• Museums are institutions based upon complex notions of stewardship and their collections, while often privately owned, represent a cultural heritage held in public trust.
• The museum is an institutional space for individual experience and while museums are expected to fulfill certain collective pedagogical functions, the fundamental experience they propose is personal and aesthetic.
• The museum has a relatively short history as an institution and as a building type and is the product of very particular cultural tradition; yet in the last 50 years the construction of new museums has arguably outpaced that of any other type of cultural institution.
• Museums exist in an astonishing diversity of forms and settings and no other contemporary institution has given rise to a greater breadth of architectural interpretation.
• Museums require highly specific technical conditions and the maintenance of precise environmental conditions.
• The museum is a space for confronting art, an experience that is considered central to contemporary life but is constantly being redefined.