Peter Cooper’s vision for The Cooper Union, outlined in his letter to the Trustees and presented with the Deed of Trust for the institution on April 14, 1859, and expanded in his opening address on November 2, established the framework for what has become a rich institutional history in a building “entirely devoted … to the advancement of Science and Art.”
From the opening of the Foundation Building to that of the new academic building at 41 Cooper Square, architecture has supported the unique pedagogy of art, architecture, and engineering in The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. More specifically, the education of architects, from the first drawing classes of 1860, to the full five-year undergraduate professional degree program of 1965, and the post-professional master’s program of 2009, has been informed by the careful design and re-design of its buildings.
This exhibition traces the reciprocal relations between architectural education and architecture at The Cooper Union, examining the history of its successive building campaigns side be side with its evolving pedagogy. Throughout this history, studios, classrooms, laboratories, and lecture rooms have been complemented by the three programmatic components established by Peter Cooper in his Deed of Trust – a reading-room, galleries of art and scientific collections, and the Great Hall – all of which continue to inform the mission of The Cooper Union today.
Curated and mounted by the School of Architecture Archive, and displaying the recently discovered blueprints and original drawings of the Foundation Building, annotated drawings by the first Dean, John Hejduk, for the renovation of 1974, together with computer-generated models of the first and second states of the Foundation Building, the exhibition provides a panoramic view of teaching programs, exhibitions, and publications of a hundred and fifty years of architecture in the Cooper Union.
In reviewing the history of the great experiment that Peter Cooper launched in 1859, the School of Architecture looks forward to an equally innovative and exciting future, as new pedagogies intertwine with great traditions to respond to the increasingly urgent demands of a threatened environment, with urban and architectural strategies forged in the studios and laboratories of our new and renewed spaces of learning.