The Cooper Union has unveiled its newly opened Art, Architecture, Construction, and Engineering (AACE) Lab, an interdisciplinary makerspace made possible in part by a $2 million grant from the New York-based IDC Foundation.
Located on the fourth floor of the Cooper Union’s historic, Fred A. Petersen-designed Foundation Building in the East Village, the state-of-the-art-facility is home to an eye-popping slew of advanced fabrication tech and digital tools including 3D printers, CNC routers, laser cutters, a vinyl cutter, a waterjet cutting machine, a vinyl cutter, a vacuum forming machine, and more. The equipment will be available to all students studying within the college’s three distinct schools: the School of Art, the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture, and the Albert Nerken School of Engineering.
The design of the college’s new digital fabrication hub, which replaces an old lobby area adjacent to the existing Art and Architecture Sculpture Shop, was led by Sam Anderson, a Cooper Union alumnus and adjunct faculty member of the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture. Students and faculty enter the new lab through a large, custom-glass partition meant to evoke a sense of transparency and cross-disciplinary collaboration.
“We really wanted it to have a feeling of openness and inclusion, so that people felt very comfortable coming in,” said Anderson in a news release. Anderson, who is the founding principal of Manhattan-based Samuel Anderson Architects, was joined by fellow alumni Kayt Brumder and Alice Colverd (also both architects at Anderson’s eponymous practice) in designing the space. Two fifth-year architecture students, Zhenia Dementyeva and Willem Smith-Clark, also assisted in devising architectural drawings and virtual models, according to the school.
The opening of the AACE follows a pilot phase of the space, which debuted in February in another temporary location before being shuttered for student use due to the coronavirus pandemic. That space, however, didn’t go completely unused. In fact, it’s been a hub of (socially distanced) activity during the COVID-19 crisis and has played a key role in both virtual learning with the college and also benefited the greater New York Community. It’s where this past spring a small army of volunteer staff and faculty came together to 3D-print and laser-cut 1,500 protective face shields, which were distributed to frontline medical workers.
When classes picked back up, students were able to access to equipment through a remote project submission and contactless pick-up system. The new permanent AACE space will initially operate in a similar manner until students are eventually able to take advantage of the lab in the flesh. When the lab does become available to students for in-person use, social distancing measures will be followed and capacity will be limited. Following that, the lab will fully open when health and safety guidelines allow.
“Students can submit a file online, a lab technician sends the file to the machine, and it’ll turn out more or less exactly the same as if a student was doing it in person, so I think it ends up working really well both for what we’re dealing with right now and hopefully where we’ll be in the near future,” said Harrison Tyler, director of the AACE Lab, in a statement. “It really is our first truly school-wide fabrication resource. I’m excited for the future of this space and for seeing what kind of work comes out of having an architect, an artist, and an engineer all working in the same environment.”