Cooper Union Architecture | NYCxDesign 2023


The annual end-of-the-year student show at Cooper Union filled the foundation building adjacent to NYC’s Astor Place. Filling the ground floor gallery was the work from the architecture department, specifically a class on 2d and 3d representation. What caught my eye was the conceptual and experimental models arranged on a long table spanning the length of the interior space. Constructed of paper, wood and metal, these models explore spacial interventions and form generation.

Many of the models have a similar read to a rough sketch. There’s room here for the imagination to fill in the gaps and consider different construction and material possibilities. It was nice to be able to move around the models and quickly see the forms change. An effect that doesn’t translate to photos.

Like hand drawing, these study models still have a lot of value today since they can reveal opportunities or issues 3d computer models sometimes can’t very easily. There’s also the slight imperfections and properties of the modeling materials that add a layer of uniqueness to these ideas that digital versions would sterilize out.

I think there are some really interesting structures and forms to study here. It’s also a reminder that as good as computers are, a cheap stack of bristol board, an x-acto knife and some hot glue might be the better tools to help generate design ideas.

Photos and Intro Text: Dave Pinter
Project Description: Cooper Union

Full Description

James Lowder, Assistant Professor

Descriptive geometry

What transforms this world is knowledge. Nothing else can change anything in this world. Knowledge alone is capable of transforming the world, while at the same time leaving it exactly as it is. When you look at the world with knowledge, you realize that things are unchangeable and at the same time are constantly being transformed.

Yukio Mishima

Ultimately, all questions in art are questions of technique.

Piet Mondrian

Architectural drawing and representation, at its core, has always oscillated between responsibilities of expressing the projective desires of the architect and the necessities of instructive communication. The curious conflation of the problems of depiction (the burden of pictorial resemblance) and instrumentality (the development of a notational system analogous to a musical score) through the medium of drawing is a condition unique to architectural representation and particular to the architect’s engagement with the matter of architecture. Unlike the painter that paints paintings, or the writer that writes novels or poetry, architects engage with their discipline less directly. As the late critic Robin Evans has famously stated, “Architects don’t make buildings: architects make drawings and models of buildings.” This rather simple and innocuous statement has rather jarring consequences to consider as it reveals that which is central to the discipline of architecture is not the production of buildings necessarily, but the construction of an autonomous and virtual space a space in which the architect could equally cast artifacts of the external world around them and constructions of the imagination, so that others could pull from that virtual space, in a precise and prescriptive manner the myriad of projected forms, organizations. and constructions into the actual. This mediation from the conceptual to the material is made possible by the necessary instrumentalization and integration of the disciplining mechanism of geometry.

This course, the second in a four-semester sequence, focused on and explored the role of geometry a historical yet evolving form of knowledge and ts relationship with architecture and more specifically, with architectural delineation and representation. These intense explorations occurred through a series of simple yet progressively complex exercises that tied directly into Architectonics, both in terms of content and pedagogy. Thus, working familiarity with a range of tools and working methods–from simple geometric constructions from the point, line, and are to more complex geometric descriptions predicated on NURBS curves and surfaces, polygon meshes, and pixel manipulation was critically explored and developed in this course while being given a deeper architectural agency in the design studio.