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The Student Work Collection database showcases nearly a century of architecture pedagogy
Screen shot of online Student Work Collection database, which represents over eight decades of The Cooper Union’s experimental, influential approach to architectural education.

NEW YORK, NY.- The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art launches its online Student Work Collection database, which represents over eight decades of The Cooper Union’s experimental, influential approach to architectural education. This material provides valuable opportunities for enriching public understanding of American culture, history, and the democratic ideals that shape our built environment.

“As we examine Cooper’s legacy, we are reminded of the depth of focus that John Hejduk and a generation of professors put into the project of pedagogy,” says Nader Tehrani, Dean of The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture. “Some twenty years later, this project has produced exemplary individuals out there in the world—architects, professors, deans, activists—all of whom have carried this legacy forward, giving it new dimensions and interpretations. Whether we look at the leadership at Princeton, Harvard or RPI, we must reckon with the impact we have had on other cultures many years later. The current generation of faculty and students at The Cooper Union is profoundly aware of this commitment and responsibility, and we continue to explore and experiment without fear of failure—if only to be able to expand the imagination of learning.”

To celebrate the launch of this free, public, online database, the School of Architecture will present a two-part panel discussion on November 13 in The Cooper Union’s Great Hall. For the first panel a group of current and former faculty—including Diana Agrest, Sue Ferguson Gussow, and Michael Webb—will discuss the school’s pedagogy leading up to 2000, spanning John Hejduk’s teaching and deanship. Distinguished Professor Guido Zuliani will moderate. A second conversation will center on the impact of the School’s pedagogy on the teaching and discipline of Architecture. This will be comprised of former graduates who have become prominent practicioners and educators, including Stan Allen, Peggy Deamer, and Laurie Hawkinson, and will be moderated by Associate Professor Tamar Zinguer. Following the program, a reception will be held in the Third Floor Lobby.

The Student Work Collection encompasses analog image, text, and audio records as well as born-digital media that document more than 4,500 projects by over 1,500 students from the 1930s through the present. At launch, the online database includes up to 20,000 of the Collection’s analog records dating from the 1930s–2000. This work, which is the core collection of The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture Archive, highlights the singular inclusion of humanities in architectural pedagogy that distinguishes The Cooper Union from other schools of architecture. The Collection includes photos of drawings, small and large-scale models, supplemental sketches, and project descriptions. A selection of this material was previewed in the school’s 2018 exhibition Archive and Artifact: The Virtual and the Physical, which presented 50 years of undergraduate thesis projects by the school’s architecture students. Once complete, the Collection will become one of the first comprehensive, public, digital resources for historical and contemporary architectural pedagogy and student work.

“We are excited to share this rich body of work digitally and are certain it will help provide an integral reference point for any student, educator or researcher of architecture about the radical changes in architectural education and practice of our last century,” says Steven Hillyer, a 1990 graduate of the School of Architecture and the Director of the Architecture Archive. “Now that this body of work in the archive is fully accessible we are looking forward to expanding the Collection’s published material by adding another 30,000 born-digital images, text, and audio-visual records collected after 2000. When the second phase of the database launches in 2022 this living archive of the school’s pedagogy will continue to grow as new student work is documented on an annual basis.

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