Inside the Archtober Building of the Day #20: 41 Cooper Square

Inside the Archtober Building of the Day #20: 41 Cooper Square

Building of the Day #20: 41 Cooper Square
The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
New York, NY

Often “stats” and awards are known well before the public appreciates a new building’s urban role. Cooper Union’s 41 Cooper Square, designed by Thom Mayne, FAIA, of Morphosis Architects with Gruzen Samton as Associate Architect, is more than a volume for a multi-disciplinary academic building with a co-generation plant, cooling and heating ceiling panels, low V.O.C. materials, green terraces, and “Fit-City”-worthy vertical circulation. While these stats did help the client claim the first LEED Platinum-certified academic laboratory building, Cooper has also revived a former traffic triangle and extended its identity southwards along the new Bowery. At a time when both NYU and Columbia’s building goals face sharp scrutiny, it pays to have a tough skin. Make that a gritty double skin!

The west façade’s projected outer skin is so dynamic in section that I only recently understood (via Mayne on YouTube) that it is also gently convex in plan. An eye-catching event along the city’s grid at the start of Third Avenue also reintroduces us to Peter Cooper Park. After 150 years, the short (south) façade of Frederick A. Peterson’s Foundation Building has a worthy urban partner with which to share this public space and the 1897 Peter Cooper Monument (Augustus Saint-Gaudens with a Stanford White base).

The Foundation Building employed innovations such as wrought iron framing, ventilation at the below-grade Great Hall and a round elevator shaft. Mayne’s primary elevators skip stops to encourage use of the central open and luminous stair. This void is the heart of 41 Cooper Square, with its walls inflected by labs and studios. The façade gash opens this “heart” to the city and, in return, the city to it.

Arthur Platt, AIA, is Co-chair of AIA New York’s Architectural Tourism Committee and a partner at Fink & Platt Architects.

For the info on the tour of tomorrow’s Building of the Day click here: Toni Stabile Student Center, Columbia University.

Each “Building of the Day” has received a Design Award from the AIA New York Chapter. For the rest of the month—Archtober—we will write here a personal account about the architectural ideas, the urban contexts, programs, clients, technical innovations, and architects that make these buildings noteworthy. Daily posts will track highlights of New York’s new architecture.