Cooper End of Year Show opens Wednesday

Posted on June 15th, 2020 by Nicole Sakr

Posted under: Events, The Cooper Union

The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture’s End of Year Show 2020 will take place online in a virtual Foundation Building exhibition. The virtual exhibition is made possible through a collaborative effort between Architecture faculty, students, and staff, who have developed this special event using Unreal Engine gaming technology. The Show will open this Wednesday, June 17th at 5pm.

REGISTER HERE.

“Mounting this exhibition has been no small feat for our faculty and students who needed to not only curate and assemble its material, but to model the spaces of The Cooper Union as a virtual scaffolding for the work. To be finalizing this exhibition at a time when our world is confronting centuries of systemic Black racism has brought even more weight and meaning to the potential of their extraordinary work. All of our design studios considered a wide range of themes, engaging challenges of natural disaster, social struggle, environmental decadence, and problematic histories, in addition to the larger impact of infrastructures at the geographic scale—complex systems and events which we know negatively affect people of color, underrepresented minorities, those without access to education or health care, and communities suffering from economic inequality. In creating this virtual space, we have hoped to frame the all-important spaces of The Cooper Union as we know them, but also to inhabit them in ways that take advantage of the virtual, suspending disbelief in conventional constraints. Thus, we hope that this exhibition is a judicious and critical curatorial lens into our space of learning, demonstrating the significance of how and why we design our own environments.” – Nader Tehrani

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The Present Moment Seen Through an Autobiographic Lens

Posted on June 3rd, 2020 by Nicole Sakr

Posted under: The Cooper Union

Architectural Record features statements from several Architecture Deans HERE. Below is Nader’s statement that was released May 30, 2020:

The Present Moment Seen Through an Autobiographic Lens

Dear Fellow Members of The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture:

The final reviews are over, grading is done, and graduation is now concluded . With the formality of official narratives behind us, it has also given us a moment to sleep, catch up, think and confront the world in which we live. This morning, I woke up to the melodic tunes of Us3’s “You Can’t Hold me Down,” and despite the urge to get up and groove, I felt the weight of its lyrics “….ain’t gonna be pushed around” on top of me, and poignant to a collective sentiment recognizing the life of George Floyd—now lost. There is something deeply historic about the moment we are living today.

The song transported me to a telling moment in my childhood, from 1970 to 1974, when I lived in South Africa. Still in the Apartheid era, I had the fortune to be jolted from the familiar state of consciousness that children are usually buffered by and allowed to peer into a world that in all its inequity, was also protected by the laws and conventions that come with state-sponsored agendas. On a family trip from Johannesburg to Maseru, I recollect our first journey through the countryside, as my parents would have us sing along to West Side Story’s “I want to Live in America” with an innocent optimism, at that time not knowing in any way that my destiny would, in fact, bring us to this America. That period was by no means the end of Apartheid, but even at the age of seven, I was witness to the first signs of its waning moments. No, there were no official proclamations. The signs were somehow encrypted in everyday practices of the very people that were part of the fabric of our daily lives: the abrupt departure of close friends, the divestment in key businesses, and the suppressed murmur of Nelson Mandela’s voice as it found its way from his prison cell into the streets.

Little did I know that I was living in a historic moment, and yet the feeling was visceral: the excitement, the danger, the sense of urgency was felt by all of us, even by my father. In his capacity as Ambassador to South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, he was the first representative of Iran in these lands, recognized in the category of ‘white’ denomination. For this reason, it felt all the more telling to my youthful eyes to see him re-designated as ‘colored’ by the state trooper who stopped him for speeding on our return trip to Johannesburg. My father’s concurrent dignity and impotence under the gaze of the police force would be forever etched in my memory. In that time, designations of white, colored and black were reserved for people of different racial classifications and their rights defined accordingly; living with and against Apartheid was indeed the ambassador’s plight. Many other daily episodes became part of our new normal for four years, but little did I know that even if it seemed to be the beginning of the end of Apartheid, that I might yet live through them again in another history across the Atlantic Ocean a half a century later.

In 1974, we returned to our homeland of Iran for what turned out to be only four years; as an eleven-year old boy, I was a foreigner in my own country—and because of that, had the privilege of peering into a familiar culture with alien eyes. Enrolled in The Community School of Tehran, I was once again transported into an entirely new reality. Originally founded as a boarding school for the Children of Presbyterian missionaries from the United States in 1830’s, the school had transformed by opening its doors to the diverse global population that characterized the emerging Iran of the time. In its liberal environment, we were also witness to the tensions it maintained with the less accepting doctrine of the Shah’s Iran. More strikingly to my eyes, though, was the more nuanced tension between the Community School, Iran Zamin and The Tehran American School, the other rival English-speaking high schools, whose conventional politics were played out through the American football teams. Equally pronounced was the politics that defined the demographics of each school, with TAS being defined predominantly by the children of American military personnel, whose presence in Iran characterized the country’s semblance of stability during the post-World War II era.

Rooted in a tacit contract on the use and price of oil, the American presence was not only taken for granted by many, but also defined Iran as “an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world,” as dubbed by former President Carter. Alas, Carter’s tragic fall from grace came just months after that statement with the Iranian Revolution, followed by 444 days of American hostages taken by Iranian students, as well as a failed rescue mission, all of which sadly cemented his image in the American mind of that era. The Iranian Revolution was prompted by many factors, among them inequity, the imbalance of cultural representation and the need for political representation along a wider spectrum of orientations than what the Shah’s regime could tolerate. Ironically, the theocracy that eventually took over the revolution was a far cry from the earlier democratic ambitions of the voices in Tehran’s streets.

I would experience the Iranian Revolution in America by way of the New York Times, and through little encounter with the streets of Tehran. But much like half a decade earlier in Johannesburg, I would feel again that I was living in a critical historical moment, made even more vivid by the daily count of hostages as read through the nightly news at 6PM. Reading American words, but knowing the Iranian mentality on the streets, I could also feel the disparity between the official narrative and the plausible actualities in Iran. With all the knowledge of the American involvement in Iran over decades, little would I know then how much the politics of that moment would remain so relevant to our cultural experience today. As a high school student, I would be sheltered from the overt partisan nature of American politics, but then again, it was an academic environment that was defined by a relatively conservative community.

As one of few international students, we were respected, protected and taken care of as if we were all of the same cloth. So much so, we were all required to go to Chapel every week and sing our hymns, no matter our faith or philosophical orientation. Having had already memorized my hymns from my South African childhood, I would give little thought to the mandates of the school. With a radically secular upbringing, I knew only one thing: that even if I was born into Islam, I was not Muslim. For this reason, I treated our weekly chapel with ample irony, and only took serious note when parents of certain students of other faiths took issue with the school’s regulations. This too did not make me Muslim, but simply ‘other’. As it would turn out, the theocracy in Iran took shape in many ways over the decades, and with hundreds of thousands of lives lost to the Iran-Iraq war, and a way of life at complete odds with notions of democratic leanings, it also became clear that it was not a country that would welcome me back any time soon.

Living out questions of identity and belonging have not been a central part of my mentality. Because of this very background, I already knew I was a mixed-breed and have lived out the hybrid lives of the many identities I have inherited from all the cultures I have been lucky to encounter. In my college years, during the 1980’s, it was gay culture that helped to challenge notions of orthodox identities. However, the very freedoms of expression that came with the euphoria of that moment came into a head-on collision with AIDS, the other crisis that our government denied for the longest time, and instead of leveraging the opportunity to address our health system, it identified blame on minorities and other victims, whose lives had already been compromised by the epidemic. Still, the gay environment of 1980’s RISD was liberating for everyone, no matter their sexual orientation, because it dared us to imagine an alternative to the world that was being mandated to us, but also to empathize from the position of otherness. That otherness, is the very thing under attack in the myriads of tweets that are communicated in the early hours of the White House each day; it is also the reason that many of us, no matter our cultural, racial, or philosophical orientations, feel a kinship towards the many groups victimized by these messages, be they Mexican, gay, Asian, Muslim or black. I am all these people!

As we come to terms with the world with which we are confronted today, and what we have inherited after almost four years of the current U.S. administration, we are forced to face not only some of the more immediate ramifications of the daily toil it has unleashed, but how this moment is, in fact, connected to the many layers of history that inform it, and the many possible trajectories that await us as a result. A brief view into the innocence of my childhood is but one lens into the ways in which those experiences bind me to the challenges we face today, and how relevant they were to our predicament. For you, it might only be a reminder of the patience that is needed for history to take its course; more importantly, that you cannot merely sit and await it, but use this very instant to mold the history you wish us to inherit in the future. For those of us who have fifty years to look back upon, our only hope is that for those of you who have the same amount of years in which to look forward, you seize this critical juncture to define your role in face of the difficult options that await. You are living through a historic moment and, I suspect, it will remain with you for many decades to come.

Nader Tehrani, Dean

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MICHAEL SORKIN, 1948-2020

Posted on March 30th, 2020 by Nader Tehrani

Posted under: The Cooper Union, Urban Design

A tribute to Michael Sorkin requires words, the very instruments he crafted with meticulous discipline and mischievous delight—alas, something none of us can do justice to with any measure of parity.

I followed Sorkin’s thinking from his early days at The Village Voice, where he served as its architectural critic, the very same years he taught at The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture at The Cooper Union. I was still a student at the time, but his articles were an event to which we all looked forward, each taking on the canons and conventions of the discipline. For a decade, from 1983 to 1993, he taught alongside all the classic thinkers who we know to be The Cooper Union—among them Diana Agrest, Raimund Abraham, Diane Lewis, Anthony Candido, Richard Henderson, Michael Webb, Ricardo Scofidio and of course the dean, John Hejduk. While he taught in the second and fourth year studios, as well as Thesis, he was already beginning to build his intellectual arsenal around the theme of urbanism, the very topic that launched his first semester at our school—a seminar on Town Planning. His focus on the environment, sustainability, the politics of public space and urban culture, as well as his critique of modernist urban planning became the cornerstone of his efforts to come—both in teaching and his practice, Terreform and Michael Sorkin Studio.

A graduate of MIT in 1974, Sorkin’s thesis, titled “Some Impressions of the Department,” was a reflection not only on MIT pedagogy, but on architectural education in general. His interest in teaching methodologies led him eventually to The Cooper Union, where the “education of an architect” was the very preoccupation of the school. His continued emphasis on pedagogy led to his many academic appointments, among them at Harvard’s GSD, Yale, the Architectural Association and, of course, The City College of New York. The work of his own students was a testament to his legacy. With the new Cooper Union Student Work Collection database, some of it can fortunately be accessed here

An architect, critic, teacher and polemicist, Sorkin understood the delicate and complicated relationship between images and words. His practice displayed this dual commitment through a preoccupation with representation at large, both visual and literary. His architectural projects were composed as polemics, imagining projected worlds, visions and futures that defied the very conventions with which he was confronted in the profession. Still, it was his command of language and mastery of rhetoric that made him the eloquent architect he became. Words flowed seemingly effortlessly with incisive precision, belying the actual intellectual efforts that preceded his theoretical labor. He reminded us that ideas come in many forms, but moreover that they do not exist outside of the medium in which they are communicated. His words were the instruments of his ideas and he demonstrated that his ideas relied on the very lexicon he was able to manipulate. He made us love language and the allusive nature of meanings, references, and the worlds of associations they impart.

A champion of the city and the social vocation of architecture, Sorkin’s life was cut short, the result of complications from the Coronavirus; ironically, the very phenomenon that has taken our access away from the city, and our ability to congregate, is the very same thing that has led us back to language to unite us in communication. Both of these worlds belong to Michael Sorkin, and lamentably, we will not be able to enjoy his last words on the city, evacuated as we know it today.

Nader Tehrani

Also shared by The Cooper Union HERE. Also shared by Architectural Record HERE.

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OPENING AT COOPER: NIVOLA IN NEW YORK | FIGURE IN FIELD

Posted on January 14th, 2020 by Nicole Sakr

Posted under: The Cooper Union

Costantino Nivola (1911-1988)
Nivola in New York | Figure in Field
January 23–March 15, 2020

Opening Reception: January 23, 6:30–8:30pm
Nivola in New York Panel Discussion: March 9, 6:30–8pm, Featuring Giuliana Altea, President, Fondazione Costantino Nivola; Antonella Camarda, Director, Museo Nivola; and Michele Cohen, Curator, Architect of the Capitol
Italian Cultural Institute of New York

Arthur A. Houghton Jr. Gallery
The Cooper Union, New York
7 East 7th Street, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10002

The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, the Fondazione Costantino Nivola, and the Italian Cultural Institute of New York present Nivola in New York | Figure in Field, an exhibition of the work of Italian sculptor Costantino Nivola (1911-1988), known for his large-scale bas-reliefs, murals, and free-standing sculptural installations created in collaboration with architects. On view January 23 through March 15 in the Arthur A. Houghton Jr. Gallery, the exhibition is the first-ever to tell the story of Nivola’s built New York City projects through maquettes and sculptures, original drawings, site-specific photographs, and related ephemera. The exhibition also features a timeline outlining 62 projects that Nivola made in collaboration with architects over approximately 40 years. New York is home to the largest gathering of Nivola’s public artworks — 21 pieces across all five boroughs, at least 17 of which still exist. A free pocket guide will be produced for Nivola in New York: Figure in Field to encourage visitors to learn more about all of these works and see them in situ.

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Nader named among most admired Architecture Educators

Posted on November 8th, 2019 by Nicole Sakr

Posted under: Academic, The Cooper Union

“Scholarly, intellectual, great teacher, thoughtful administrator, good person”

See Design Intelligence’s list of top architecture educators HERE!

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Helmuth Rosales and Steven Holl honored!

Posted on October 25th, 2019 by Nicole Sakr

Posted under: Events, The Cooper Union

photo by Samuel Lahoz Photography

The Cooper Union’s Helmuth Rosales and Stephen Holl Architects were both honored last night at the Center for Architecture’s Heritage Ball. Congrats!

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Cooper ranked #4!

Posted on October 2nd, 2019 by Nicole Sakr

Posted under: Academic, The Cooper Union

The Cooper Union has ranked as #4 undergraduate architecture program for 2020 in Architectural Record’s list of America’s Top Architecture Schools. Last year they were #5 and the year before #15. Details and breakdowns HERE.

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Next Thursday – Diana Agrest: Architecture of Nature / Nature of Architecture

Posted on September 25th, 2019 by Nicole Sakr

Posted under: Academic, The Cooper Union

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“How to Build a House: Architectural Research in the Digital Age,” opening at the Cooper Union

Posted on September 10th, 2019 by Nicole Sakr

Posted under: Events, The Cooper Union

DFAB HOUSE on the NEST building, Switzerland, 2019. Photo by Roman Keller, via The Cooper Union

A new exhibition at The Cooper Union showcases the conception and making of the DFAB HOUSE, the world’s first fully inhabited building to have been digitally planned and largely built with the help of robots and 3D printers.  The Opening Panel Discussion and Reception will be this Thursday, September 12, 2019 at 6:30pm in the Frederick P. Rose Auditorium at 41 Cooper Square. More info HERE.   

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Adam Silverman at The Cooper Union

Posted on September 4th, 2019 by Nicole Sakr

Posted under: The Cooper Union, Things We Like

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