The main spaces of the School of Architecture are housed on the second, third and seventh floors of the Foundation Building, a National Historic Landmark widely referred to as one of New York City’s great monuments.
When The Cooper Union opened in New York City in 1859, the physical structure of the original building closely followed Peter Cooper’s educational philosophy. The five-story Foundation Building was designed by Frederick A. Petersen in the Renaissance Revival style, with studios and classrooms above a first floor of stores open to the public. In 1890, Leopold Cyrus W. Eidlitz added studio skylights and additional floors to the building. The building exemplified not only Peter Cooper’s dedication to social mobility through education, but his recognition of the power of technology and the importance of art and design. The tallest building in New York City in 1859, this first “skyscraper” was also the first building to be designed with a rolled iron I-beam infrastructure and the first to house an elevator shaft top to bottom, although the passenger car and conveyance system for such a shaft had not yet been developed.
In 1974, John Q. Hejduk, the first Dean of the School of Architecture, completely redesigned the interior of the Foundation Building, aligning the program of the building with the pedagogy of the schools, while leaving the exterior largely unchanged. In the words of Ada Louise Huxtable, the renovation was “the best of both worlds,” with the “‘Renaissance shell intact” and the “clarity and detail of the consciously sophisticated modernism of the interior” attesting to “the creative continuity of history and art.” The brownstone exterior of the Foundation Building was extensively restored under the direction of Platt Byard Dovell between 1999 and 2002.