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The Cooper Union launches a free database dedicated to student work

The landing page of The Cooper Union's School of Architecture's new Student Work Collection Database. (Courtesy The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture)

Two weeks ago, The Cooper Union’s Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture launched its new online Student Work Collection database, an archive of student projects from the 1930s through today. Spanning over eight decades, the database aims to illustrate how The Cooper Union’s experimental approach to architectural education has evolved over time and influenced architectural pedagogy at large. The collection is free and open to the public. 

The database’s release was organized into two phases. To celebrate the project’s initial launch on November 13, the school hosted a two-part discussion between former and current faculty members. The first phase provides access to approximately 20,000 analog records dating from 1930-2000, including almost 1,600 design studio projects completed at the school. The collection “highlights the singular inclusion of humanities in architectural pedagogy that distinguishes The Cooper Union from other schools of architecture,” the school wrote on their website

Accordingly, the first discussion was centered around the school’s pedagogy up until 2000 and John Hejduk’s legacy as teacher and dean. Participants included Diana Agrest, Peter Eisenman, Michael Sorkin, Sue Ferguson Gussow, and Michael Webb. The second discussion was centered on “the impact the pedagogy has had on the teaching and discipline of architecture” and was comprised of former graduates including Peggy Deamer, Laurie Hawkinson, Stan Allen, David Gersten, Bradley Horn, Kyna Leski, and Toshiko Mori. 

Phase II began earlier this month and is expected to continue through 2022. “Once complete, the Collection will become the first comprehensive, public, digital resource for historical and contemporary architectural pedagogy and student work,” said the school. The second phase will broaden the collection’s material by including 32,000 images, text, and audiovisual records from 2001 through today. 

You can browse the database according to courses, projects, locations, and people organized in alphabetical order. Users can also filter the collection of photos, drawings, and models by role, semester, or problem being addressed. A selection of this material was on view at the school’s 2018 exhibition, Archive and Artifact: The Virtual and the Physical, which presented 50 years of the school’s undergraduate thesis projects. 

“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,” said Steven Hillyer, director of the Architecture Archive.

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