Peter Lynch AR’84
Running for: Council
Cooper has never been distant for me. I am still inspired by what my teachers transmitted. Throughout my professional life I’ve been helped by Cooper faculty, Cooper colleagues, and architects and educators from other backgrounds who understood the meaning of a Cooper Union education. Since graduation I’ve remained connected to Cooper and concerned about its future. I served on the nominating committee for a few years and waded into debates about Cooper’s future during Jamshed Bharucha’s presidency. When I moved my practice to Beijing and then Stockholm, it became increasingly difficult to serve Cooper. I’m happy to learn that the alumni council’s meetings will have online participation. I will be able to fulfill the obligations of a council member.
Although my experience of Cooper is centered on the Architecture School, my brother Bill Lynch attended the Art School. Remarkable friends attended the Engineering School. Perhaps like most of us, I imagine that collaboration between Art, Architecture and Engineering is one of the school’s untapped strengths. Pedagogies and cultures of the three schools are quite different… can they intersect? If alumni of the three schools are able to work together harmoniously in the Council, then collaboration between educational programs is certainly possible. We embody the three schools.
It’s obviously essential to return to the full-scholarship model for undergraduate programs. The simple phrase “as free as air and water” is the most important part of Peter Cooper’s legacy. We must uphold the belief that higher education is part of the commons. I’m grateful that President Sparks is driven so strongly towards this goal. We the alumni have an important part to play. Judging from my own feelings, I believe that many alumni in each School will step up with generous financial support when we see that our School is marked by a strong and singular pedagogy; when we understand how our School contributes to the ecology of higher education; when we see that our School fills a vital role in society. This is a very high expectation… it asks a lot of the administration and faculty. But I think that we alumni have a right to expect luminous clarity… perhaps this expectation is one of our functions in the institution. Architecture and Art Schools at Cooper Union aren’t farm teams for Harvard, Yale, or Princeton graduate programs. The Engineering School isn’t a mini-MIT. It is its own thing. The identity of Cooper Union is actually four different identities (and that’s OK).
– Some alumni make take issue with aspects of the path that their School chooses to follow. The focus and pedagogy of each School cannot remain what it was when we were students, even if that was just a year ago. I believe that we as alumni are wise enough to respect and enthusiastically support pedagogies and goals that are different than those we valued as students. – I hope that the Council can function not only as a communication bridge between Administration and alumni, but also as a serious and mutually respectful forum for thoughts about Cooper’s future. This requires council members to listen to one another.
Peter Lynch (AR’84), researcher at KTH School of Architecture Stockholm, is a NY registered architect. His Swedish architecture practice Building Culture PLA is focused on new methods of timber construction and applied research in architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design. After graduation he apprenticed with Steven Holl, opened his own office in New York in 1991, and directed the graduate architecture department at Cranbook Academy of Art from 1996-2005. He has taught at Harvard GSD, Columbia U, Rhode Island School of Design, The City College of New York, Parsons the New School, Dalhousie U, Penn State University, and KTH Architecture, where he was guest professor from 2016-2021. He received a 2021 grant from Vinnova, Sweden’s Innovation Agency, for “Timescape Garden,” an ongoing project in Norrköping Sweden; a 2018 scholarship from Riksbyggens Jubileumsfond “Den goda staden”; and a 2004-2005 Rome Prize. Website: https://buildingculture.se. Instagram: @plyncharch. Academic papers and writings at www.academia.edu.