As part of its 150th Anniversary and overall institutional rebranding, the Cooper Union retained SKOLNICK to design “Advancing the Mission: The Cooper Union at 150,” a permanent exhibition in the lobby of the historic Great Hall. Honoring the Great Hall’s historical significance, this exhibit invites visitors to discover the role of Peter Cooper and other visionaries and leaders who promoted ideals of democracy, social justice, philanthropy, and public education from its hallowed lectern.
A semi-enclosed red drum creates a meditative entryway, taking its shape from the building’s iconic round elevator shaft. Columns are emblazoned with quotes from the institution’s founder, for instance, “We are all bound up in one common destiny.” Glass panels double as graphic surfaces and protective casework for artifacts. Wall-paper-style graphics serve as a relevant backdrop for the stories of notable radicals who took the Great Hall stage over the years, including Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, and Frederick Douglass. Visitors to “Advancing the Mission” are encouraged to recognize that many cultural shifts of national scale were launched from this very site through democratic community activism.