Preston Scott Cohen

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Preston Scott Cohen is a celebrated architect and is the Gerald M. McCue Professor of Architecture at Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD). In 2004, he established a partnership with two registered architects, Amit Nemlich and Gilles Quintal, and became the Principal of Preston Scott Cohen, Inc. based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[1]

Academic career[edit]

Cohen received his Bachelor of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Architecture degrees from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1982 and 1983 (respectively). In 1985, he received his Master of Architecture degree from the Harvard GSD. Gaining professorship there in 2003, he also served as the Director of the Architecture degree program. In 2008, he was appointed Chair of the GSD,[2] a position held previously by Rafael Moneo, Mack Scogin, Harry Cobb and Walter Gropius.[3]

Geometry in architecture[edit]

In the Wu House paper for the 2001 ArchiLab conference, Cohen gives a vision of his geometric transformations which are used to define the movement in space of the building occupant. The transformation is only accessible on paper but the images show all the same that these forms are the apothesis of his research at a given moment.

His approach is based on the descriptive geometry of the 17th century, but he shows a novel application by using oblique projections. This approach is supported by computer modelling. The calculations are rapid, sometimes preprogrammed, and the transformation from two dimensions to three is a simplified by the software. Geometry is returned to its independent status after having served primarily the needs of technology during the industrialization of the West. It is no longer a tool for the production of machinery.

In the case of the Wu House, photographs of which have been collected by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art,[4] the curves are the intersections of cylindrical volumes. The spaces are three-dimensional images of geometrical operations. The vitality of the lines reflects an idea of design which is far from the preconceived rules of aesthetics.

Tel Aviv Museum of Art[edit]

Cohen is the winner of the Herta and Paul Amir Competition[5] (awarded January, 2004) to design a new building for the Tel Aviv Museum of Art (estimated $45 million budget to build flexible gallery spaces, concessions, as well as the restoration of labs and offices).[6] It is noted for its hyperboloid form, and is to be finished with Israeli stone.[7] Renderings of the project were shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles in a 2006-2007 exhibition entitled Skin + Bones: parallel practices in fashion and architecture.[8]


  • Several publications, including the 1997 monograph Preston Scott Cohen
  • Wu House paper for the ArchiLab conference 2001
  • Forthcoming book Permutations of Descriptive Geometry


  1. ^ Preston Scott Cohen Interview
  2. ^ Harvard Faculty Profile, accessed 7 September 2009.
  3. ^ Michael Silverberg, Inside Job, Metropolis 13 May 2008
  4. ^ San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Preston Scott Cohen in collaboration with Cameron Wu, accessed 7 September 2009
  5. ^ For information on the competition see: Esther Zandberg, Design contest for Tel Aviv Museum annex reaches finals, Haaretz, 7 July 2003
  6. ^ Nicolai Ouroussoff, Optimism Breeds Opportunity, New York Times, 9 September 2010
  7. ^ Haim Handwerker, Hyperboloids among the rectangles Haaretz, 13 February 2007
  8. ^ Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Skin + Bones: parallel practices in fashion and architecture, accessed 7 September 2009

External links[edit]