Tour of 41 Cooper Square

I attended a tour on Wednesday January 13, of 41 Cooper Square; aka the new Cooper Union building. Although 41 Cooper Square is open and operating, it is not open to the public so it was a great opportunity to take a look at the inside of the new school designed by Thom Mayne of Morphosis. The tour was organized by the Young Planners Group.

The tour was about an hour long and was guided by the director of planning and capital projects, Clark Wieman, for Cooper Union.

Mr. Wieman discussed some interesting facts and processes of the development and design of 41 Cooper Square. Like many new developments in NYC, Mr. Wieman explained that the site was reviewed for zoning requirements from which the design guidelines were developed. The process of selecting Thom Mayne of Morphosis was by interviewing different and reputable architects and not by a design competition / presentation.

(Fact: Thom Mayne has a New York State license to practice architecture.)

Upon awarding Thom Mayne of Morphosis the project, he was provided with the program and design guidelines which, aided him in designing the building that stands at 41 Cooper Square. Mr. Wieman explained that the zoning analysis and design guidelines, informed Mr. Mayne that he was to design a building with additional glazing at the ground floor as well as provide light and air via east and west direction hence the big “crack” you see along Cooper Square. From the inside, the crack carves out an area for students to gather and and hang out before and after classes as well as provide infomal spaces for meetings.

And then there is the much mentioned grand stair that widens as it reaches the main floor however I did not realize that when the open stairs continued above, the stairs switched in a triangular pattern as opposed to a square; and it is illuminated. Plus the walls that climb up the open stair core is a giant white net, which gives the stair core an openess of the public spaces before entering areas where classes are held. The stair core has great texture, shape, and space. And as you can see, my pictures focuses a lot on the stair core.

Another part of the new Cooper Union school is the large classroom/ auditorium below the main floor. They’re still working on it but I just love the acoustical panels they used for the walls and ceiling, which is a soft metal mesh that is easily manipulated to create these waves, dips, and undulations.

The tour of 41 Cooper Square was most informative for me about the project’s development and subsequent findings as a means to inform the architect the design of the current building exterior and interior. I liked the building before, I like it even more now.

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