“The Faculty Committee was looking for individuals who could both speak to Cooper culture, while also imagining different ways of extending and transforming it into a new era,” Nader Tehrani, dean of the school of architecture, says. “Given the lack of full time designers on the faculty, the idea was also to tap into practicing architects who had other interests that could be supportive of seminars and allied intellectual work.”
Lorena del Rio exemplifies that multi-disciplinary approach. Born, raised and educated in Madrid, she co-founded RICA* studio, along with Iñaqui Carnicero, which has offices in Spain and New York City. She also taught for four years at Cornell University prior to coming to The Cooper Union. “What originally drew me to architecture was the idea that an architect can never work in isolation,” del Rio says. “I’m especially interested in an interdisciplinary approach to design where architecture, art and material research meet to investigate architecture’s psychological affect and its capacity to promote emotional wellbeing.”
In a recent example, the English for Fun Centre in Madrid needed to represent the center’s goal of using teaching methods that use the five senses. To foster this, RICA* designed “inhabitable,” modular dividing walls in a sunny yellow hue that stores all furniture and objects as well as being a play space on a scale for children. “Design can be a powerful tool to shape cognition and experience,” del Rio says. “Beyond design, Professor del Rio’s work on building technologies made her an ideal candidate to contribute to courses that could integrate material thinking, environmental systems and systems of production within the design studio,” Nader Tehrani says.
Professor del Rio has plans for her approach at the school. “My goal is to blend what I learned in Europe with my experience in American academia in a pedagogical approach that integrates the best of both worlds. I am thrilled to be part of such a legendary institution as Cooper Union, and participate of the unique spirit of their faculty and students.”