Sunday, July 21, 2019

Education of an Architect

Education of an Architect: The Cooper Union School of Art and Architecture, 1964-1971
John Hejduk, et. al.
The Monacelli Press, 1999

Paperback | 9-3/4 x 9 inches | 364 pages | 340 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1580930406 | $50.00

Publisher Description:
On November 13, 1971, the exhibition Education of an Architect: A Point of View—featuring the work of Cooper Union students under the direction of the chairman of the Department of Architecture, John Hejduk, and the dean George Sadek—opened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The installation of models, drawings, and photographs along with faculty and student statements, documented work from 1964 to 1971.

To accompany the exhibition, The Cooper Union published an extremely influential limited edition book—long since out of print—of 54 projects by some 60 students showing their in depth explorations of problems based on the visual discoveries of cubism and neo-plasticism as they related to architectural space and thought.

This new volume is a smaller-format reprint that includes all material from the original book—exceptional color and black-and-white drawings and model photographs—and the original introduction by Ulrich Franzen, along with two new texts, a reintroduction by architectural historian and educator Alberto Pérez-Gómez, and an essay by Kim Shkapich, director of the Architecture Archive at The Cooper Union. The reprint charts the foundations of the pedagogical inventions and methodology that a spirited and independent faculty, under the aegis of John Hejduk, brought into what has been called "the best school of architecture in the world."
dDAB Commentary:
In my review of Diana Agrest's Architecture of Nature/Nature of Architecture I mentioned The Cooper Union's famous Education of an Architect books, one of which was released in 1971 and the second in 1988. I'm most familiar with the latter, which I devoured in my frequent visits to the architecture library during undergraduate architecture school; but the first book is more influential in the wider sense. Somewhere I read that the first Education of an Architect spurred other architecture schools to document the output of their students in print. There existed publications such as Yale's Perspecta that featured articles by professors and architects, but supposedly it was The Cooper Union that made the output of students acceptable for bound volumes sold to the public. Now we are inundated with annual publications put out by architecture schools, many of them functioning as publicity, as a way to entice students to enroll there. The first Education of Architect, though, was actually an exhibition, held at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in late 1971.

The limited-edition first edition from 1971 was long hard to find (there's one on Amazon going for $175) so The Monacelli Press reprinted it in 1999, adding some photos of the MoMA exhibition (first spread below), reviews of the exhibition (one from Ada Louise Huxtable at The New York Times), an essay by Alberto Perez-Gomez, and a new cover for the smaller page size. I'm assuming everything else is the same. This everything else consists of primarily black-on-white ink drawings, with some models, collages, and the occasional photograph. The book starts logically with introductory classes, including then-dean John Hejduk' famous "Nine-Square Problem," and ends with the thesis projects of fifth-year students. In between are page after page of what Huxtable described as "spectacularly beautiful work, elegant, formal, and totally detached from the world around it." This detachment is evident, for instance, in the closer: Peter Saitta's "Design for a Subway Entrance," which used two hollow subway cars projecting from the underground as canopies: more a critique of the (still) failing subways in NYC rather than a realistic proposal. The most famous student name in the book is Daniel Libeskind, who contributed a housing project and a series of collages (two bottom spreads), the latter of which foreshadow his famous drawings from the 1970s and 80s. His projects are just two of many, all highly varied but together indicative of a highly influential school at an important time.

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