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Once separated by a street, the renewed Cooper Union Foundation Bu
and Cooper Square now join each other on the building's south side
(below). At night (bottom), the illuminated white interior shines through
.the north and west facades of the building's impeccably restored exteri
Project: Foundation Building
Client: The Cooper Union, 7 East 7th. St., N.Y.C.
1858, Fred A. Petersen
1974, John Hejduk
Program: renovation of existing building to provide
classrooms, studios, office, exhibition,
assembly and library space. Total area of
145,000 sq ft.
Site: Cooper Square, New York, N.Y.
Structural system: steel framing, exterior bearing
wall, reinforced concrete slab, vaulted
Major materials: exterior; brown sandstone, wood
casement windows, cast iron columns:
interior; block end metal stud walls
enclosed in lath and plaster, floors of
vinyl asbestos tile, quarry tile, wood,
and carpeting, suspended acoustical tile
and plaster ceilings.
Mechanical system: Imultizone HVAC drawing utility
Cost: withheld by owner.
James Wm. Golden
AE 581 1182
The Cooper Union
Foundation Building, the 119-year-old national landmark
and pride of Cooper Union, has undergone radical surgery to
implant a 20th-century interior in it's 19th-century shell.
The Cooper Union project is not an adaptive reuse of an
older building (it's use has not changed throughout the build-
ings long history); it is not a restoration (only the Italian-
ate exterior has been restored); nor is it a remodeling (only
portion of the building have been significantly altered).
If the Foundation Building falls into none of these cat-
agories, then what Is it?. In a sense it is all of them, even
adaptive reuse (the building originally had retail shops on
the first two floors, which haven't been used as such in years,
but part of their walls now form part of the library stacks).
The project's architect, John Hejduk, calls it a re-present-
The center of attention is an eight-story bearing wall
structure with iron and steel framing. Originally designed as
a five story building by Fred A. Petersen. A vertical circu-
lation core stood at the sbuth end, and a stack 6f masonry
wall "cells" along the diagonial east facade of the trape-
zoidal plan. Filling this part of the shell were 17'-6"
square bays framed by cast iron columns, built-up rolled
section girders, and 7T in. steel floor beams 3"-6" on cen-
The framework was exposed. Columns were manufactured in
a variety of styles: fluted, circular, and inscribed; octagonal;
or perhaps composite, channels tied by diagonal lattices and
enclosed by ornamental plaques. The girders were fabricated in
England. The floor beams were the same rolled stock supplied
to the Baltimore end Chio in 17'-6" lengths for railroad track,
hence the bay size.
Under the famous Great Hall basement auditorium, host to
Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony and Mark Twain, the buildings
weight descended from iron columns and pedestals to three-tiered
pyramidal footings of solid granite.
Into this framework went a flooring system centuries old.
Catalan vaulting rested on the rail flanges, directing it's
side thrust to the angle formed by the flanges and webs. The
vaulting supported concrete topping, sleepers and a finished
Special conditions abounded. The south end, where the
bay rythm was interrupted by vertical circulation, produced a
structural mire. Bearing walls and arched beams framed the
southeast open staircase. A fan of beams radiated from the
circular elevator core to create a curving monumental stair-
case. And between these stood a tight configuration of bays.
The renovation program basically wraps new services
around old lofts. Studio floors three through six were refitted
with toilets, storage and offices as well as special facilities.
The Great Hall hassbeen modified to meet all current fire codes.
Floors one and two have opened up to accommodate a library on
the former and administrative offices on the latter. Floor
seven, an L shaped mass rising on the south and east flanks
of a huge triple bank of skylights on floor six, is unchanged
except for refurbishing. Floor eight is new space created by
expanding the clock room and planting a rooftop garden.
To all floors go new structural, mechanical, electrical, plum-
bing, and HVPC systems.
The process? The south end was completely gutted of it's
maze of bearing walls, illegal and inefficient staircases,
and tight column and beam structure to accept new steel, floors,
walls, and general circulation stairs, a second elevator, and
a new monumental staircase. Floors one and two exchanged load
bearing masonry walls for steel columns. All corridors and
public spaces were beefed up to handle increased loading, and
all structural framing was enclosed in fireproof sheathing.
There were no measured drawings of the building as con-
structed. In the process of making field measurements it was
found that many column lines shifted as they passed through
floors one and two on the way to the basement.
Loading was shifted, on module lines, to structural
timber columns on either side of the original members from
floors 3 to 6, to remove stress on masonry bearing walls.
Shored timber floor beams were installed on floors 1 and 2
to relieve the masonry between column lines. Upper floor
columns dangled from suspension cables as masonry walls were
demolished and columns and beams were installed. Where column
line shifts appeared (as much as 8k") grillage was placed on
floor one to relieve the Great Hall columns of eccentric mom-
Corridor floors were reinforced by additional steel which
reduced spans by 1/3. On the south side floors were replaced
by reinforced concrete slabs. In the Great Hall a new raked
slab was poured that reduced the seating capacity somewhat.
The New York Times reffered to the Foundation Building
as a"dowager too proud for a facelift but in need of support."
This renovation has accomplished just that.
FOURTH LEVEL: SCULPTURE
THIRD LEVEL: ARCHITECTURE
FIFTH LEVEL: PHOTOGRAPHY AND GRAPHICS
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SX EL PN-
SIXTH LEVEL: PAINTING
FIRST LEVEL: LIBRARY
BASEMENT LEVEL: THE GREAT HALL
OTHOMETRIC PROJECTION, SECOND FLOOR
7:75 Progressive Architecture 55
3" X 4"
1" RIGID I
PARAPET WALL SECTION
1%" ALUM. CHANNEL
Progressive Architecture; July 1974
Progressive Architecture; July 1975
Architectural Record; October 1974
Domus; August 1975
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Gallery, offices, and study rooms overlook first floor library (above).
Double staircase in southeast corner of first floor lobby (above) leads
down to black and white basement level foyer (below) of the Great Hall.
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At left, column "floats" from suspension calezi ac;. i.,a passes
through temporary shoring timbers. Workman avoids direct
stress zone as masonry yields to steel framing on ground floor east.
Tne "Cathedral" founO A tangle of Dearing wa ll, Iegal elair&,
and dense Ironclad bays bows to a cavernous najesat more evocative
of late Romanticism than contemporary technology, Circular
elevator shaft stands alone at building's southwest corner prior
to erection of new steel structure. In foreground, workman
is removing lower segment of a diagonal brace spanning six floors.
ar recent iews of Great Hall display care in preserving
cnarar,Ier of room Note new floor 8slb. rear exit row
Id spi nlklers Complelte in lime for 1974 commencement
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Top: under north skylight on floor 6, diagonal brace reaches
zenith. Architecture studio, above, evokes 19th Century
spatial clarity with 20th Century form. Detail of column
and beam joinery includes split-ring collar, built-up
section beams, and Catalan vaults on railroad flanges.