The Cooper Union in Manhattan has formally launched its search for the new dean of the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture, and interested parties have until February 14, 2022, to apply.
With the announcement also comes the planned stepping down of the current dean and founder of the Boston-based NADAAA, Nader Tehrani. Tehrani was named dean of the school of architecture in 2015 and led the department as the school underwent a series of foundational changes, from plans to reintroduce full scholarships for all students (by 2028) to the rapid shift to online and virtual education over the last two years. Before that, Tehrani led MIT’s Department of Architecture from 2010 to 2014.
“After eleven years of academic leadership—four at MIT and seven at Cooper Union, I remain deeply committed to teaching and the building of institutions,” said Tehrani. “At the same time, this transition allows me to genuinely immerse myself back into practice over the coming decade; NADAAA has served as a critical mechanism for me to balance out what I do between academic speculation and the practicalities of everyday practice, and this is a time to re-channel those efforts.
“My mission as dean of the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture is largely complete, at least in terms of what I defined when I arrived here. Much of it was transitional in itself, recognizing not only the foundational role that [John Hejduk, dean from 1975 to 2000] played over three decades, but also some of the transformational challenges that [Anthony Vidler, dean from 2001 to 2013] confronted in opening up its culture. I had the luxury of looking back to Hejduk with a broader perspective, this, after twenty years of his passing: to historicize his impact, to underline his emphasis on pedagogy while searching for new modalities, and to genuinely free up the school to explore without the burden of a singular legacy. It is important to underline that Vidler left many seats to be filled, and with my arrival, we are able to expand our full-time faculty while also absorbing the voices of our adjunct faculty by giving them increased roles and responsibilities; in itself, this has transformed the intellectual culture of the school, diversifying it, and enriching it—all while plugging back into certain tropes that are so characteristic of its academic atmosphere.
“I have only positive things to say about my experience of the last seven years, and the position of this deanship is probably the absolute best amongst its rank… in great part because of its commitment to both teaching and practice as a central part of its definition. Less administration, more engagement with students and faculty… that is what I have loved throughout. I am certain that the next dean here will have even more latitude than I have had, and in turn, we will be there for the support they need.”
Tehrani will continue to teach at the Cooper Union. As the Cooper Union noted in its announcement, the COVID-19 pandemic is nowhere near finished and his successor has myriad challenges to tackle. The new dean will need to continue to fundraise, collaborate across the school’s other departments and with the students themselves, and lead the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture through what is likely to be another few years of juggling in-person and remote learning. On the upside, they’ll inherit the new Art, Architecture, Construction, and Engineering (AACE) Lab, an interdisciplinary makerspace equipped with top-of-the-line fabrication tools that opened at the end of 2020.