After thorough research, Cooper Union students, faculty, and alumni selected 25 pieces of modern architecture exemplary of the design movement’s aesthetics and principles. Examining these modern buildings with an eye towards sustainability, the show’s analysis of environmental strategies employed by architects including Paul Rudolph, Oscar Niemeyer, Albert Frey and Frank Lloyd Wright, provide insight into early environmental innovations in architecture. Through these examples, the exhibit reveals the germination of today’s green movement.
Among those seeds are practices born out of necessity, as well as steadfast modernist principles. Before air-conditioning existed, modern architects incorporated means for passive cooling and ventilation into their designs. An ever-present goal to minimize the use of materials, seamlessly incorporate structures into their sites, and limit the destruction of landscapes was seen at work in many modernist buildings. These same practices are still championed by sustainability leaders today. Kevin Bone, Director of The Cooper Union Institute for Sustainable Design, acknowledges that “while none of these examples meet a perfect definition for today’s green building best practices…these projects do present a catalogue of architectural ideas that accomplish much of what green design aspires to do.”