The Cooper Union
School of Architecture


The "liberating" potential of standardization that promised "variety" in mass housing, was one of the myths introduced by 20th Century European Modernism. Unfortunately, this promise produced anonymity and thus doubt in the progressive ideals of the Modern Movement. The economic constraints that produce the repetition of standardization, however, need not lead to the erasure of the individual dwelling.

The reptilian "Slither" building is made of 105 housing units. After designing the units, we performed three small disturbances:

  • Seven units are assembled into a stack. Each stack interlocks with the next, wedging an increment of 1.5 ° at the joint. The accumulation of this angle along the building’s 15 stacks results in a shallow curve, convex to the street and concave to a communal courtyard. The long elevations are faced with overlapping "scales" of perforated metal screening modulating the degree of privacy at the circulation corridor and the balconies.
  • Each unit slips 1.4 meters in plan from the next, freeing entry doors to be approached on axis, so that each is metaphorically a private façade. The slippage also produces a private balcony on the south side.
  • The floor slab of each unit is offset 200 mm vertically from the next. The circulation system of shallow continuous ramps creates a subtle artificial topography. The lowest unit at the west end of the building and the highest at the east are offset by the dimension of one full floor. The building appears to tip up from grade.

Professor Emeritus, Adjunct Faculty