The Cooper Union
School of Architecture

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Professors Anthony Candido, Stephen Rustow, Michael Young, and Tamar Zinguer

Museum Design
A program was devised for a museum of contemporary art. The 100,000 square foot area was divided evenly between public and support components. A complex urban site measuring 35,000 square feet was selected at the base of the High Line, an abandoned elevated railway bed in the historic Meatpacking district in Manhattan. This proposed development of the museum in studio coincides with the ongoing evolution of the surrounding district from mainly abandoned industrial uses towards retail, recreational, and cultural activities; the site itself has been selected for a proposed annex for the Whitney Museum of American Art. For the purposes of confronting specific curatorial issues, a collection of works from the 1960’s through 1980’s was assembled from those in the Dia:Beacon collection, a museum that the students were required to visit.

To initiate the spring semester, a one-day ‘symposium’ with several architectural historians acting as invited critics placed the students’ analytical exercises into a historical and theoretical perspective. Students then began working in groups on a site analysis covering historical, formal, accessibility and environmental issues and together produced a scale site model. A ‘program charette’ was assigned to provoke a quick interpretation of the underlying formal parti of the museums previously analyzed, and to provide a point of departure for organizing the brief. Interim reviews focused specifically on site and program issues as each student began to develop a comprehensive design. The structural, environmental, and technological themes previously examined in the fall semester were gradually incorporated into each project. Students decided individually on structural systems, environmental strategies and the design of the envelope of their buildings in discussion with the professors specializing in each distinct discipline. During one week, an intensive lighting exercise was conducted with the visit of Andrew Sedgwick, Director of Arup Lighting, who introduced the class to daylighting issues and then worked individually with each student to develop a gallery lighting strategy.

The final review focused on a comprehensive presentation of each student’s design in the urban context, its formal and architectonic development of the program brief, and a specific evocation of the attitude adapted toward the collection.