In an article for the NYTimes, Ada Louise Huxtable describes both the history as well as the desired futures for the Cooper Union New Academic Building in New York City:
Designed by Thom Mayne of Morphosis, a West Coast firm based in Santa Monica, Calif., in association with Gruzen Samton of New York, the bold new arrival has been widely praised by the architectural community and sharply criticized by those who see it as a contextual affront to the neighborhood. This is a disagreement that won't go away any time soon. A little background may help.
Cooper Union was conceived and founded by the 19th-century inventor, entrepreneur, philanthropist and legendary New Yorker Peter Cooper, who specified that it "should be entirely devoted with all its rents and revenues of every name and nature to the advancement of science and art." His generous gift of building and land has provided a superior, tuition-free education for generations of distinguished architects, artists and engineers.
Cooper Union New Academic Building at 41 Cooper Square is a Morphosis designed educational facility which includes a custom-curving and perforated stainless steel facade, made by Zahner. The University's new building covers a full city block on Third Avenue from East 6th to East 7th in downtown Manhattan, bordering the East Village. The Morphosis design provides Cooper Union with a futuristic facade, strikingly different from its surrounding buildings.
Published photographs make the contoured and perforated stainless-steel screen that wraps the structure like a second skin look as if it has been hit by an asteroid. Approached in person, the building is more inviting than alarming. It has a visual and physical power that pulls you across the street to see more.
The screen stops well above the sidewalk, revealing V-shaped concrete supports and a glass-walled ground floor with views of a double-height sunken gallery inside. Operable windows in the perforated mesh and the slashes in the façade open public areas to panoramic city views. At night, lights turn the screen into an illuminated theatrical scrim.
Mr. Mayne has used similar screens as energy-saving devices before; this one promises a 50% reduction in heat load. A full range of such features, from the operable building skin and a planted "green" roof to radiant heating panels and a cogeneration plant, is expected to earn a platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating from the Green Buildings Council.
Article by Ada Louise Huxtable. Read the full story at Wall Street Journal.