Reflections on a Transformative Semester
POSTED ON: May 19, 2023
Dear Cooper Community:
As the spring semester draws to a close and the weather becomes warmer, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to all of you—faculty, staff, and students—for your remarkable contributions and active engagement across every facet of the School. This is a moment of celebration as we honor our graduates and launch our End of Year Show, but it is also an opportune time to reflect on the intensity and significance of this extraordinary semester.
The immense talent and unwavering dedication that flourish within our community continue to inspire me. In recent weeks, we have witnessed an incredible display of energy, inclusivity, and innovative thinking around the possibilities and impact of architecture and the built environment. The final projects and presentations of our students were truly exceptional, reflecting their boundless creativity and passion. Our deep-rooted culture of precision, rigor, and craft continues to permeate our ethos, and it never ceases to amaze me each year as I rediscover it anew.
Our public programs have played a pivotal role in fostering a vibrant intellectual culture within the school. By expanding the boundaries of our studios and seminars into other public formats and engagements, we have created meaningful spaces for dialogue and exploration. The quality of our events and exhibitions remains consistently remarkable, and it was particularly gratifying to finally open the long-awaited exhibition Vkhutemas: Laboratory of Modernism, 1920–1930 in April after its initial postponement in January. In the Great Hall, the provocative symposium War/Art Balance: Deimperializing the Soviet Avant-Garde at the Time of Russia's War on Ukraine, Its Culture, and People brought together diverse voices to explore the complexities surrounding the histories of Ukrainian, Russian, and Soviet avant-garde movements. By facilitating such dialogues, we reaffirmed our institutional commitment to providing a platform for courageous public discourse—a space where new ideas and opposing perspectives can be expressed and explored.
Many important discussions on the environment emerged over this past year. The lecture series, Architectures of Transition, curated by Assistant Professor Elisa Iturbe, along with the accompanying exhibition, Confronting Carbon Form, underscored architecture’s significant role in defining the outcome of this increasingly uncertain phase of human and planetary history.
Both the work and the ensuing conversations are demanding a renewed focus on transformative pedagogies and design practices that tackle the urgent climate emergency.
During this semester, we forged exciting partnerships with neighboring institutions that have opened new avenues for collaboration. As part of an elective course, a dedicated team of students is currently working on creating a large-scale model of a stupa typology for the upcoming exhibition Tree & Serpent at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in June. Additionally, we have reignited our longstanding alliance with Storefront for Art and Architecture. Together, we are collaborating on a new pedagogical experiment—a forthcoming course in the School of Architecture, accompanied by a public component, which will focus on public art in New York City. The initiative was launched in the Great Hall with a memorable program of readings, conversations, and performances centered around the plurality, complexity, and nuance of Black experiences, which was coordinated with Assistant Professor Nora Akawi. The event served as a dynamic platform for creative exchange, bringing together a group of artists, writers, scholars, thought leaders, and musicians in a dialogue with What Black Is This, You Say?, a thought-provoking public artwork, exhibited at Storefront, by Chicago-based artist Amanda Williams.
Through a series of interdisciplinary seminars and studios, students from the Art, Architecture, and Engineering Schools have been participating in group projects, fostering collaboration and innovation. As we continue to advance these interdisciplinary efforts, the Civic Projects Lab hosted an inaugural Workshop on Generative Art, Architecture, and Engineering Collaboration. This event, spearheaded by Assistant Professor Ben Aranda (Arch.) and Associate Professor Sam Keene (Eng.), builds on a multi-year initiative at Cooper Union to delve into generative algorithms and machine learning.
The Student Lecture Series also brought diverse voices and perspectives into the school, with a special lecture and studio participation by Takaharu and Yui Tezuka from the Tokyo-based practice Tezuka Architects. We are enormously grateful to Elise Jaffe + Jeffrey Brown for their continued and generous support of this student-led endeavor.
This year also marks the midpoint of the 10-year Plan to Restore Full-Tuition Scholarships for all undergraduate students. This ambitious undertaking necessitates fiscal discipline, leading to challenging decisions and sacrifices. On behalf of the institution, I express our gratitude to the collective efforts of alumni, faculty, staff, students, donors, and partners who have embraced this bold vision and contributed to its encouraging progress. Together, we are working towards revitalizing The Cooper Union's legacy as a tuition-free institution dedicated to learning.
As we celebrate the accomplishments of our graduates and the opening of our End of Year Show, I am deeply honored by and grateful for the chance to guide the school, and for the meaningful connections I have forged with students, faculty, administration, and the wider community on a daily basis.
Thank you once again for your exceptional efforts and unwavering support. Let us continue to embrace new ideas, encourage diverse perspectives, and create spaces where courageous conversations can thrive.
Wishing you a restful and productive summer!
Hayley Eber, Acting Dean