This latest building for The Cooper Union has the ability to transform the way we think about architecture and its creator, Thom Mayne. Like Bilbao, one must take the opportunity to see this extraordinary building in person. It simply takes the breath away. Few urban buildings in Manhattan can say that for often the form and interior are dictated by the developers dollar. Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum on 5th Avenue is one of the few structures that challenge the envelope of the typical urban building in Manhattan - and Thom Mayne's new platinum Leed piece of architecture is one of the next best things since. The exterior skin manages such a radical transformation as it spirals around the exterior it is as if it represents the forward thinking of the school itself. The Cooper Union, with its cutting edge professors in every discipline and a true meritocracy of talented students (who compete for the free admissions policy )- this academic institution has finally been blessed with a contemporary symbol of its integrity and academic excellence its founder would be proud of. From the articulated and carved metallic skin that undulates around the entire perimeter right down to the folded text of the school's name - Mayne's building challenges the viewer to question how these forms came about. Even more so, it makes one truly curious of the structural complexity that holds up this giant cube that appears to be floating precariously on a series of V shaped columns. "This is the building that Frank Ghery, Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid, and Wolf Prix have dreamed of doing in New York City - but only Thom Mayne was able to realize. That is a herculean feat in itself." That such an inspired piece of sculptural form could also be extremely suited to dynamic interior spaces that faculty and staff and students alike applaud - is a testament to Mayne's true genius as not only a pre-eminent starchitect but also a sensitive and thoughtful designer. - Inson Wood
The new academic building at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art is yet more proof that some great art was produced in those self-indulgent times. Designed by Thom Mayne of the Los Angeles firm Morphosis, it is not a perfect building, but it is the kind of serious work that we don’t see enough of in New York: a bold architectural statement of genuine civic value. Its lively public spaces reaffirm that enlightenment comes from the free exchange of ideas, not just inward contemplation.
Perhaps more important, the building seems to strike just the right tone for this time in New York’s history. A wholly contemporary work, it has a bold, aggressive profile that says as much about the city we’ve lost as it does about the future we are building. It proves that a brash, rebellious attitude can be a legitimate form of civic pride.