Alexandra Lange | Essays

For My German Readers

Are there any? No idea.

My critique of Morphosis’s 41 Cooper Square was just republished in Baumeister. As time goes on my negative impressions of this building are coloring my previous positive feeling about all of Mayne’s work. Maybe he never makes a nice place. I was too stunned by the bigness of it all. Is that a good message for students?

What all these day-to-day bits of student life had in common was they had nothing to do with the staircase, and nothing to do with the exterior screen. Students can almost entirely avoid engaging with either simply by taking the elevator, crossing Third Avenue. Those gestural parts are only applied to the Cooper experience, as if to say, If you’re lucky, this is what you get to do. Both elements already feel a little like museum pieces from 2009, show-offy but not integral. Paul Rudolph’s Art and Architecture Building at Yale, where I took my architecture classes, and wrestled with his unforgiving staircase, is not everyone’s cup of tea. But the design did impact every part of your student life, the tiered studios, the two sets of stairs, the skip-stop bathrooms, the snack bar with a view. Mayne’s work for Cooper Union feints at that kind of mind-altering, shape-shifting experience. But it didn’t make me feel pummeled or exalted, just curiously bored.

Posted in: Architecture

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