The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art opened its new academic building on its Cooper Square campus in New York’s East Village. Designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne of Morphosis, the building has quickly become one of the city’s new landmarks. Abbott Miller has designed a unique program of signage and environmental graphics for the building that is fully integrated with the building’s dynamic architecture.
Miller is a Cooper alumnus—this year he received the school’s prestigious Augustus Saint-Gaudens Award—and he knew the campus well. The new academic building, located at 41 Cooper Square, sits directly across Third Avenue from the Cooper Union’s original 1859 building, called the Foundation building. Like Mayne’s architectural design, Miller’s graphics for the new building establish a dialogue with the older structure.
The environmental graphics were also inspired by some of Miller’s typographic explorations in his book Dimensional Typography. The signage typography has been physicalized in different ways, engaging multiple surfaces of the three-dimensional signs, appearing extruded across corners, or cut, extended and dragged through the material. Miller worked closely with Morphosis to integrate the signage into the building. The building canopy features optically extruded lettering that appears “correct” when seen in strict elevation, but distorts as the profile of the letter is dragged backwards in space. The cutouts in the lower half of the letterforms echo the transparency of the building’s surface “skin” of perforated stainless steel.
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