Sep '06 - Jan '11
At this school, most final reviews happen in the lobby of the third floor of the Foundation Building, where several arteries of the school intersect and come in contact with one another. The square elevator, engaging in a conversation with the round elevator directly across the space, stands next to Dean Vidler's office and the office of the administration. Around the corner, students enter from the curved fire stair, carrying their latest wooden or steel model from the 4th floor shop.. or carrying their quickly grabbed lunch or coffee from St. Marks below. Some choose to enter into the hallway next to the fire stair, which runs down the remainder of the length of the building, off of which the studios, classrooms, and faculty offices are connected. Others choose the more scenic route, a stroll through the work pinned up in the lobby, until they reach the door at the very western end, behind the round elevator, which opens to the studio where mostly all of the five years of students work. This is a space, designed by our late Dean John Hejduk, where, for the past 40 years of its existence (and more contextually a space more than 150 years old), thousands of students under this school have passed through every day, and on average seen the product of one or several students hanging on the wall, or a tediously labored over model resting on the floor.
I bring this up to illustrate two important things that have happened today:
1. Anthony Vidler, our Dean, assembled the entire student body into one classroom at the end of the hall. In what was advertised as a meeting to discuss the upcoming NAAB accreditation visit, turned into a chance for him to express his deep love for the school and his students.. explaining that the traveler that he is, the renowned lecturer and critic who has visited countless studios across the globe, has yet to visit a school that can top the amount of dedication, passion, and quality of thought and work he has seen presented in the space I described above. I cannot explain the importance of a school's solidarity and pride in an ethic of working, but we left the meeting with a strong sense of our duty in earning our full-tuition gift, and preserving this, dare I say, legacy of Cooper. Our task in the next few weeks in preparation for the accreditation visit is to be understood as a chance to reflect upon the quality of work produced at this school, and a positive understanding of the work to continue.
2. Raimund Abraham passed away Wednesday night, in what I find to be a tragic and severely saddening event. Prolific people such as him should not die by such democratic events like a car accident. In my education and time at Cooper, Raimund no longer taught the studios. His presence was no longer daily, and was felt only once by me, during a final review of Lebbeus Wood's first year Architectonics class, in the lobby of the 3rd floor of the Foundation Building. This moment, and the moment I have described above, are two of the most memorable moments I have felt a strong sense of collective among the students. Because the lobby is an artery for all activity among the school, every student and faculty member who walked through the reviews stopped, went silent, and listened to the words being spoken by Raimund, and were moved.. if not by his words, but also the shear fact of his presence in the room. Every student who was there, from all five years, felt a sense of connectivity with the body as a whole, and an importance to pursue work with the amount of integrity Raimund asked for, and himself worked with.
And in looking to the future of this tragic event, one would only hope that upon remembering the work and life of Raimund Abraham, whether it be with intense familiarity or a new spark of curiosity into the work of a man who may not be well know to all, a sense of duty would be understood. A duty to uphold the sanctity and power of architecture, and to work with an amount of rigor and self-respect that defines the discipline of architecture to be understood as one of the most powerful tools to shape the human condition.