Cooper Union_2009

view from street

view from street

Designer: Thom Mayne of Morphosis

Location: 41 Cooper Square New York City

Size: 175,000 gross sq ft

Program: Academic and laboratory building with exhibition gallery, auditorium, lounge and multi-purpose space, and retail space

Completion: 09/01/2009

Houses: School of Engineering, the Humanities and Social Sciences, the School of Architecture and the School of Art

site plan

Blue Building on Third Avenue, across from Cooper Square.


Lobby is clad entirely in glass, making the public spaces easily accessible from the street. The ground floor serves as a retail space and exhibition gallery. The auditorium can also be easily found one floor down.


The “stacked vertical piazza” is organized around an open and connected central atrium that rises the full height of the building and is spanned by sky bridges, opening up view corridors across Third Avenue.

for more diagrams:

grand staircase

The grand staircase, sweeps from the lobby all the way to the 4th floor. The staircase, 20 feet wide at its base. Providing a place for impromptu and planned meetings, student gatherings, lectures.

Sculptured atrium: handmade glass-fibre reinforced gypsum joints.

To make these connections, the circulation system relies upon several staircases that pass through the central atrium  grand staircase, skip-stop stairs, skip-stop elevator system, sky bridges, and focal staircase.

The building’s flaws, though, lie not in a failure of vision but in questions about its execution. The most serious of these have to do with circulation. I expect there will be complaints, for example, about the main elevators, which only go up to the fifth and eighth floors.-Nicolai Ouroussoff, New York Times

1st floorplan

1st floorplan

2nd floorplan

2nd floorplan

3rd  floorplan
3rd floorplan
4th floorplan
4th floorplan
5th floorplan

6th floorplan

4th floorplan: On the 4th & 7th floors, sky lobbies and meeting places—including a student lounge, seminar rooms, lockers, and seating areas overlooking the cityscape—are organized around the central atrium. Classrooms and offices can be found on the 2nd, 3rd, 5th,6th, 8th, and 9th floor.

Elevators only connect to the 1st, 4th, & 7th floor.


Building’s Skin

1. sunscreen, perforated stainless steel panels

2. glazing

3. exposed structure


South and East Elevation

The façade registers the iconic, curving profile of the central atrium as a glazed figure that appears to be carved out of the Third Avenue façade, connecting the creative and social space of the building to the street.


Built to LEED Gold standards and likely to achieve a Platinum rating.

• An operable building skin made of perforated stainless steel panels offset from a glass and aluminum window wall. The panels reduce the impact of heat radiation during the summer and insulate interior spaces during the winter.

• Radiant heating and cooling ceiling panels.This contributes to making the new building 40 percent more energy efficient than a standard building of its type.

• 75% of the building’s regularly occupied spaces are lit by natural daylight.

• A green roof insulates the building, reduces city “heat island” effect, storm water runoff and pollutants; harvested water is reused.

• A cogeneration plant provides additional power to the building, recovers waste heat and effectively cuts energy costs.

Big Ideas

  • simple glass box + sculptured skin
  • sculpture atrium/circulation/social exchange

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