New York Newsday / "Plans for the new Cooper Union unveiled"
by Justin Davidson

New York Times / "Cooper Union Engages the Neighborhood"
by Nicolai Ouroussoff

The Cooper Union presents design of New Academic Building by the acclaimed architecture firm Morphosis

Building Is Linchpin of Ambitious Academic and Financial Plan at Cooper Union

NEW YORK—The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art today announced an exhibition and design preview of its new academic building – a building that will help to ensure Cooper Union’s educational and financial future and establish a new architectural landmark for New York City. The college chose Thom Mayne and the firm Morphosis after a rigorous selection process led by an Architect Selection Committee that screened 150 nominees.

To maintain The Cooper Union’s position as a top tier college, the new academic building will create an interdisciplinary learning environment for its students that will engender creativity. By adding pedagogical innovations and expanding the use of engineering technologies, the new facility will ensure both the college’s academic excellence and its historic contribution to the quality of life and urban infrastructure of New York.

Cooper Union president George Campbell Jr. said, “After the extensive search, we chose Thom Mayne of Morphosis to design our new academic building based on his architectural philosophy and ability to create reconfigurable and sustainable buildings that will evolve with both technology and pedagogy advancements. The pre-schematic presentation will confirm that Mayne’s unique architectural vision responds not only to The Cooper Union’s mission but to the fabric of the surrounding neighborhoods of the East Village.”

“Mayne’s design, conceived with the belief that space can inspire learning, embodies Cooper Union’s intention to create an academic building that will have the same impact that the Foundation Building had on higher education in 1859 and that our Chrysler Building had on New York architecture in the 1930s,” concluded Dr. Campbell.

Designed largely to house Cooper Union’s Albert Nerken School of Engineering—one of the top three specialized engineering schools in the nation— the building will also provide institutional space for the Humanities and Social Sciences, the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture and the School of Art. The structure will function as both a space for study and a learning laboratory. To the extent practical, the mechanical, structural, telecommunications and environmental technologies will be accessible for study by students and faculty.

The pre-schematic design, created over a period of six months by the Los Angeles-based firm Morphosis in collaboration with New York architects Gruzen Samton will be on view at The Cooper Union’s Arthur A. Houghton Gallery, located in the college’s Foundation Building at Third Avenue and East 7th Street, beginning on Wednesday September 15, 2004. The exhibition will include a large-scale model of the building, architectural renderings, photographs and wall texts. The exhibition will remain open through October 23rd. Construction of the nine story full-block facility, located on the east side of Third Avenue, between 6th and 7th Street, is expected to begin in early 2006.

“Because teaching has become more interdisciplinary, and because new thinking and new discoveries are constantly reshaping our knowledge, it is crucial for The Cooper Union to have a flexible, open and interactive academic building,” states Thom Mayne, founder and principal of Morphosis. “We literally designed out from that core, always keeping in mind that a building for The Cooper Union should be as strong and innovative as the institution itself.”

Dr. Campbell noted that the new academic building is the linchpin of Cooper Union’s plan to secure the college’s academic leadership and it’s tradition of granting full-tuition scholarships to all undergraduate students. To secure both its long-term revenue streams for the college, Cooper Union also has leased an underdeveloped site at Astor Place between Lafayette Street and 4th Avenue to the Related Companies, which is building a residential structure designed by world-renowned architect Charles Gwathmey. Once the academic building is completed and occupied, the current engineering school building at 51 Astor Place will be razed and the property leased for development of a mixed-use commercial and academic structure. Key to the plan is a $250 million Capital Campaign, now in its nucleus phase, which will fund the new building in addition to supporting operations and expanding the endowment.

The Morphosis design conceives of the new facility as a “vertical campus,” organized around a central atrium that rises to the full height of the building. This open connective space, spanned at various levels by sky bridges, ensures interaction throughout the building while opening up view corridors across Third Avenue to the Foundation Building. The atrium also contributes to the building’s high degree of physical and visual permeability, which helps integrate it into the college’s neighborhood. At street level, the facade along Third Avenue features substantial glazing, allowing views into and out from the atrium. Many of the public functions (including retail space and a lobby exhibition gallery) are located at this level. A second gallery and a 200-seat auditorium are located at the base of the atrium, where they are visually and physically accessible from street level. While the building is designed to be open, porous and accessible, it will also be exemplary as sustainable, energy-efficient architecture, thanks in part to an innovative steel-and-glass building skin. A six-story-tall, slanted and folded screen of stainless steel spans the entire width of the building along Third Avenue.

Along Third Avenue, this semi-transparent screen of stainless steel spans the width of the building slanting and strategically breaking to allow views into and out from the building. This stainless steel skin reduces the influx of heat radiation during the summer and serves as a “coat” in cold weather. The juxtaposition of steel and glass in the building’s skin system also allows for heightened performance and dynamic composition on several levels: The steel screen fluctuates in its offset from the glass enclosure from one to eight feet providing a useful tool to vary the scale and texture of the facade relative to the site’s surroundings. This variance in offset also enables selective exposure of the building’s interior and expression of its tectonic character. This innovative building skin also improves the building’s performance through control of daylight, energy use, and selective natural ventilation. Other “green” features include energy-efficient, state-of-the-art mechanical systems and the incorporation of an on-site co-generation plant as an alternative energy source.

The Cooper Union’s project team for the new academic building, led by Morphosis includes Gruzen Samton LLP and contractor Sciame Construction. Coordination is being provided by Horne Rose, engaged by Cooper Union as its Owner’s Representative. Horne Rose is part of Jonathan Rose Companies, a New York based development and project management group.

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art is one of the nation’s top ranked private colleges, offering degree programs in Art, Architecture, and Engineering. Founded by industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper, the College has provided a full-tuition scholarship, now valued at $27,000 per year, to every accepted student since 1859.

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