Still Unfinished, Cooper Union’s New Academic Building Has a Critic

Cooper Union building
Morphosis designed Cooper Union’s new academic building. (Cooper Union rendering)

Cooper Union’s new academic building, now under construction across Third Avenue from the institution’s landmark main building, is already provoking strong reactions—even though it’s still under construction.

In his architecture column in The New York Sun, Francis Morrone says the building is “one of the most violent building designs I’ve ever seen,” and adds that the “giant gash out of its glassy front evokes a bomb blast.” It’s not entirely clear that he means this as criticism, mind you—especially since he describes Cooper’s nearby engineering building as “banal” (except for its “widely admired” Starbucks addition). But he does complain quite clearly that Cooper Square has “a hodgepodge of structures that has done nothing to make of this the special place it cries out to be.”

The new building was designed by Morphosis, Thom Mayne’s high-profile architecture firm. The structure is, Mr. Morrone notes, “an object building, meant to stand out from its surroundings.” And there’s no question that it will succeed in doing so. Whether it will succeed in making Cooper Square more pleasant, though, remains to be seen. Cooper’s engineering building, by the way, is due to be replaced with a commercial building designed by Fumihiko Maki.

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