Building of the Day #20: 41 Cooper Square
The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
New York, NY
Often “stats” and awards are known well before the public appreciates a new building’s urban role. Cooper Union’s 41 Cooper Square, designed by Thom Mayne, FAIA, of Morphosis Architects with Gruzen Samton as Associate Architect, is more than a volume for a multi-disciplinary academic building with a co-generation plant, cooling and heating ceiling panels, low V.O.C. materials, green terraces, and “Fit-City”-worthy vertical circulation. While these stats did help the client claim the first LEED Platinum-certified academic laboratory building, Cooper has also revived a former traffic triangle and extended its identity southwards along the new Bowery. At a time when both NYU and Columbia’s building goals face sharp scrutiny, it pays to have a tough skin. Make that a gritty double skin!
We know Thom Mayne and Morphosis are moving. Now we know they’re moving REALLY soon. Their new headquarters, located just next to the new Expo Line tracks in Culver City, started construction last summer and are wrapping up this month. They need to move in by July 1, said Mayne, because the lease to their rented warehouse space next door is up. That should get things moving, despite some delays because of this year’s heavy rains.
LA starchitect Thom Mayne recently took some time to share his art/sculpture with our friends at Form magazine. The three-dimensional pieces reveal his love for investigating hard-edged metallic shards, architectural movement, faceted surfaces, hovering forms and general chaos; all major forces in his architecture.
After years in the spotlight it appears that University of Southern California (USC) uber-alum Frank Gehry has decided it’s time to give back. The school announced today that Gehry has been named the school’s Judge Widney Professor of Architecture. He’s also taught at Columbia and Yale, but this is his first time teaching at his Alma Mater.
It’s not clear yet what classes he’s going to lead. Gehry, 81, graduated from USC (B.Arch) back in 1954. He’s arguably the school’s most famous alumnus, but there is good competition, including architects Thom Mayne and Gregory Ain, astronaut Neil Armstrong, filmmaker George Lucas, and, of course, O.J. Simpson.
The Daily Beast features a very interesting article about LA’s “Culture King” Eli Broad. The writer, LA Weekly’s Tom Christie, details Broad’s incredible spending spree on culture (not to mention on education and science), from the Broad Stage in Santa Monica to his new museum downtown, putting him in the company of other legendary—and, um, challenging— LA philanthropists like Norton Simon and J. Paul Getty. While art world figures like Michael Govan take their shots, few architects appear willing to talk on record about the intrusive client (Broad calls himself “strong willed” in the story). But one of them is Thom Mayne, who doesn’t pull many punches, although in the end seems to have an affinity for Broad. As for their failed partnership on the downtown museum, Mayne gets in a little dig: “We worked for a while, and we just reached a mutual understanding that we weren’t going to work together… It’s my city, and I didn’t want to produce a building I wasn’t proud of.”. Another revealing tidbit “I think he’s crazy as a loon half the time, and I don’t agree with him. But I have great admiration for him, and I actually like him.” For his part Broad gets in a slap at those who criticize his style: “Why don’t they join in the L.A. cultural life, rather than [sit] back and [offer] commentary?”
Granted he’s won the Pritzker Prize and had a string of recent successes, but all the same we were more than surprised to get a forwarded White House press release from Morphosis today touting the appointment of Thom Mayne, one of the industry’s gruffer individuals, to the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. He is the only practicing architect on the list. Created in 1982, the committee, according to its website, brings, well, the arts and humanities into the White House. Headed by the First Lady, activities under the previous administration included an “unprecedented” cultural exchange with China, a “bi-national cultural communique” with Mexico, and the creation of the Coming Up Taller awards to honor school-age artists. Read More
PACKING UP CAMP
Now that Donald Fisher’s CAMP project in San Francisco is officially dead, talk is swirling about where the Gap founder’s art collection will go. The whispers have focused on one obvious suspect: SFMOMA, which has already begun planning a 100,000-square-foot expansion that could get even bigger. One rumor has it that the museum is talking to the city about acquiring an adjoining fire station and building a new one elsewhere in return, in order to offer the Fishers their own digs. SFMOMA director Neal Benezra coyly parried questions with the comment: “We welcome the opportunity to partner with the Fishers to find a home for their collection as part of an expanded SFMOMA campus.” Read More
Widely accepted as the greatest public radio station on the planet, KCRW is famous for its groundbreaking music played by DJs who are smarter, cooler and infinitely better dressers than you. But last week was a bitter one for LA as the station’s great Nic Harcourt hung up his headphones as music director. For those of you who are already missing Harcourt’s esoteric taste (sometimes a bit difficult to take at 9:03am even after a visit to Intelligensia), never fear: Thom Mayne has stepped into the booth.