Lightfall 1, Design for the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 2003

Preston Scott Cohen

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
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Preston Scott Cohen’s architecture is shaped by complex geometries. Since establishing his practice in 1989, Cohen has designed projects ranging in scale from modest domestic and commercial interiors to cultural institutions. Never satisfied with easy solutions, Cohen revels in difficult sites, programmatic constraints, and complex spatial configurations. The virtuosity of his approach is evident in recent projects such as the Goodman House (2001–04), the Tel Aviv Museum of Art (2003–09), and the Robbins Elementary School (2005–08), each of which embodies his elaborate investigations into geometry’s potential to reshape architectural form.

When Cohen adopted computeraided design in the early 1990s, his work moved from “inventions”— intricate hand-drawn geometric projections that remarkably foreshadowed computer models—to projects with multiple layers which aim to solve concrete problems posed by construction. The process has expanded his repertoire. Although every project has used familiar architectural forms, Cohen distorts and mutates them with oblique projections, creating designs that challenge our perceptions about the nature of order in architecture.

The Goodman House, in Dutchess County, New York, one of Cohen’s first major projects, is a rewrapped nineteenth-century Dutch barn inspired by a torus, or donut, shape. In 2003, Cohen won an international competition for the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. The ambitious addition, due to be completed in 2009, includes an extraordinary spiraling atrium composed of multiple hyperbolic parabolas, which pulls light three stories below the ground. The “lightfall” represents Cohen’s simultaneous fusion of baroque and modern spaces. The unexpected combination of discrete geometries resolves the relationship between dynamic spaces and flexible rectangular galleries.