Case Studies

Cooper, Robertson & Partners

Building Better Projects through Responsive Design

Cooper, Robertson & Partners (CRP), a New York City-based architectural design firm, is building more than extraordinary structures. Since its founding in 1979, the company continues to design buildings and public spaces that integrate seamlessly into each place while enhancing the surrounding community.
“We believe a building should be more than a freestanding object,” reveals Scott Newman, partner at CRP of 15 years. “We start by analyzing the larger site, well beyond the contract limits, to determine how the natural or urban context of the area will impact the design and how the building can contribute to the city, campus or natural setting.”
CRP was founded by Alexander Cooper and Jaquelin T. Robertson, both of whom are still practicing senior partners, as a highly responsive, client-driven design firm. “Our level of design excellence sets us apart, but even more so is our responsiveness to our clients in terms of developing needs-based programs and meeting their budgets and schedules,” says Scott. “Unlike many architectural design firms, we don’t have a signature style because the character of the architecture should fit each client’s site, program and budget.”
A Different Approach
This approach and dedication to responsive design has won CRP worldwide recognition. “We’re based in New York City, but we’re involved in projects around the U.S. and internationally, including China, Brazil, Greece, Mexico and France, among other locations,” details Scott. The firm employs 75 high-caliber professionals, including some of CRP’s original founding partners. This combination of deep experience and innovation provides unique benefits to CRP’s clients.
“We welcome collaboration with other firms,” notes Scott. When CRP ventures outside of its home territory, the company often teams with local architects for project support. “We’re currently working on the museum at the St. Louis Gateway Arch and the new Florence County Museum in South Carolina, and because of the distance and economics it makes sense for us to team up with local firms,” continues Scott. “We lead the design and they lead the construction phases, and that’s the same model we follow for other remote projects both nationally and internationally. We rely on their local knowledge for a contextual perspective, as well.”
Whether at home in the Big Apple or somewhere across the country, CRP’s urban design and architecture is all about place-making. “All of our projects are grounded in urbanism,” explains Scott. “We are responsive to both the character and systems of each place – be it a city, a college campus or a natural landscape – the design must have a harmonious fit with each setting; that philosophy permeates our approach to architecture.”
As a focused design firm, CRP performs all architectural work in-house. “We don’t have engineers or landscape architects in our studio, but rather seek out the very best design professionals in each field to assemble the right team for each project,” says Scott. “This brings real value to our clients.”
Celebrating the Arts, Education and Revitalization
With the right creative team, CRP has successfully completed a wide range of award-winning projects, including high-end, custom homes. However, according to Scott, since the company’s founding the team has continued to place a heavy emphasis on urban design and revitalization.
“Many of our projects take abandoned industrial sites and re-integrate them into the fabric of the city through development plans,” he reveals. “In Philadelphia our award-winning design for a long stretch of the Delaware River provides a long-term plan for each neighborhood’s enhancement or revitalization by creating connections to the riverfront that add value.”
The company also plays an active role in promoting education and the arts. “Our institutional portfolio includes a great deal of cultural work, from museums to performing arts venues,” he shares. Scott goes on to note that the team also tackles K-12 and higher education facilities, offering services ranging from academic programming and master planning to architectural design.
The firm is also recognized as a national leader in resilient design, bringing the most advanced thinking and design solutions to climate related issues at regional, city and individual building scales.
“In recent years we’ve noticed an increasing number of public-private partnerships,” continues Scott. “In St. Louis our project at the city’s famous Arch is funded through a private foundation in partnership with the National Parks Service. We’ve found that when there’s less government funding available, private partners step in to contribute.”
Building Better Value
One of the company’s recent public-private partnership projects is the AIA New York State award-winning Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in N.Y.C’s Marcus Garvey Park. “We met with the Harlem community and the Parks Department often to understand their needs and desires for the theater,” shares Scott. “The amphitheater faces west and the sun can be hot during the summer performance season, so a structure to shade the audience from the evening sun was important. When we first priced the project, the cost of the sun shade structure exceeded the available budget, but the Richard Rodgers Family Foundation stepped in to donate it.”
Also in Harlem, CRP has delivered projects for the City University’s Hunter College School of Social Work and Public Health and a new charter high school building for Harlem Village Academy. “Together with the Richard Rogers Amphitheater, these projects are all investments in culture, education and design excellence for the Harlem community,” Scott details. “We’re proud to be part of it, and they were all public-private partnerships.”
In lower Manhattan, in the city’s meat-packing district, CRP has collaborated with the Renzo Piano Building Workshop on the design of a 220,000-square-foot building for the Whitney Museum of American Art. “The building, now under construction, is targeted to be the first LEED Gold certified museum in the city,” reveals Scott.
The museum’s design will connect lower Manhattan’s High Line Park to the nearby Hudson River Park, reflecting the firm’s commitment to architecture and urbanism. “The new Whitney will bring great value to the neighborhood,” says Scott “It’s scheduled for completion in 2015.”
While large-scale architecture and engineering (A&E) firms continue to reach for more market share, Scott assures CRP is confident in both its position and approach. “We are right-sized to bring the greatest benefits to our clients,” he admits. “With 75 professionals on staff we are sized to provide the depth of services of a larger firm combined with the personal attention of a smaller firm. While larger companies offer more services under one roof, we think it’s more valuable to our clients to assemble a unique team that fits the particular needs of each project.”
CRP’s approach may be different from the next A&E firm, but it works; and it has for many years. “We’ve worked with some of the most distinguished clients in the country, from Yale to the Museum of Modern Art, and many of them are repeat clients,” notes Scott. “Our work has been recognized for excellence with numerous design awards and we’re very proud of it.”
Scott says CRP continues to focus on responsive design first and foremost while servicing the firm’s domestic clients, as well as expanding its international presence. Whether in the city or a rural setting, Cooper, Robertson & Partners’ approach results in timeless designs that stand the test of time.

Published on: February 12, 2014

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