The Cooper Union in New York City, one of the United States’s most important architecture schools, is represented here by what resembles an architectural plan of its Great Hall, which commonly hosts lectures that are open to the public. Instead of drawing a conventional plan, however, Paul Ramírez Jonas stamped the image of an “Admit One” ticket onto the paper over and over, in a pattern that resembles a seating chart. The implication is that a building is not simply a structure made of nuts and bolts, but also a space for communities to engage in social activities (such as learning from a speaker). When Jonas made this work, The Cooper Union was free to all its students, according to the terms laid out by its founders. However, in 2013—partly as a result of decisions regarding its Manhattan properties—the school announced plans to charge tuition for the first time in its history. The ensuing controversy underscores one of the subtexts of Jonas’s work: When it comes to education, who gets to participate, and at what cost?
Label from Window to Wall: Art from Architecture, November 18, 2017–March 18, 2018