Alumni Update: Zack Cooley, Bachelor of Architecture summa cum laude ’06

After graduating summa cum laude from the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Honors College in 2006 with a Bachelor of Architecture, Zack Cooley went on to earn his master’s degree in architecture from Princeton University.  He’s been working at Diller Scofidio + Renfro, a cutting edge NYC firm, for the past two years.  Below, Zack shares what he’s working on and what he’s carried with him from his honors thesis work with Kory Smith:

I’ve been at DSR for about 2 years. I started working on competitions during my first summer. The first competition that I was hired for–a film and tv studio complex in Abu Dhabi–we “co-won” with UN Studio. We were granted the commission for interiors, public spaces, and media related elements…they did core and shell. It was a very large scope — 6 office towers sitting on 3 podium blocks. I was on this full time for about a year– concept design through design development phases. It was great because I gained exposure to a lot of ‘real world’ constraints — producing contract documents, collaborating with multiple consulatant teams, client reps, etc.

I’ve worked on some other smaller projects / concept studies here and there— a beach house in California for example. Other ‘interview’ material (when clients ask us to produce ideas before we’re granted a commission). Some stuff that hasn’t been announced yet so I’m not supposed to mention– but probably with the next couple of months.

Right now, I’m on something I’m really excited about– it’s called The Broad Museum in downtown Los Angeles. Here’s a link to it via an architecture blog:
It’s next to the Disney Concert hall (by Frank Gehry) in LA. It will house the client’s extensive modern / contemporary art collection. The article describes it well — but basically the concept is “the veil and the vault.”  The vault houses the bulk of the collection and various pieces are shown in the galley (on “top” of the vault).  The “veil” wraps the building and creates skylights and light filters for the light-senstive work (including the gallery).  I’m loving this thing and am lucky to be able to work on it. It’s scheduled to open in 2013–so we’re working fast.  I’ve been on this since schematics and we’re about 2 months away from entering the CD phase.

Definitely, the work I did with Kory has affected the work I’m doing now. Accessibility in general is something that I consider much earlier in the process. Not just accessibility in the common “ADA” sense, but also public accessibility to what would traditionally be considered private “exclusive” architecture. The museum is a good example…DSR has lobbied to make the primary spaces transparent, porous and more open to the streetscape– we’ve also promoted constructing a public plaza next to the museum to catalyze the dormant sense of urbanity in downtown LA.

I’d say that my honors thesis fits well into this idea of publicly accessible architecture too–I certainly developed an interest in marrying good architecture with good cities at that point— and at DSR I’m learning that good design isn’t necessarily exclusive. (I’m remembering now that Kory’s research dealt broadly with “inclusive design”– fits well with what I’m working on.)


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