Diane Lewis (1951–2017) was an American architect, theorist, historian and professor. She was widely recognized as a passionate, influential practitioner and educator who shaped generations of architects during her 35 years of teaching at The Cooper Union.
Born in New York City in 1951, Lewis entered The Cooper Union as an art student in 1968, transferred to the School of Architecture in 1970, and completed her studies in 1976. In 1977 she became one of the youngest recipients of the prestigious Rome Prize in Architecture. Following her return to the US, she joined the offices of Richard Meier and Partners and later, I. M. Pei and Partners, where she received her early training while launching her teaching career. After teaching at Yale University as a Visiting Critic of Architecture, she returned to Cooper Union as a faculty member in 1982, and in 1993 she became the first female architect appointed to Cooper Union’s full-time faculty.
In 1983 she founded Diane Lewis Architects PC. Her practice—which concentrated on competitions, urbanism, and built projects known for their exquisite refinement in both plan and detailing—spanned art galleries, museums, film studios, theaters, homes, schools, site studies, and proposals for ideal structures.
Lewis wrote and published extensively. In 1989 she received a Graham Foundation grant for her lectures and essays on Architecture and Surrealism, which were delivered as the Hilla Rebay Lecture at the Guggenheim Museum in 1995. She co-edited the Education of An Architect (Rizzoli, 1988) which documents the work of Cooper Union architecture students from 1972–1985. In 2007 Charta published DIANE LEWIS: INSIDE-OUT: Architecture New York City, a survey of her work with essays by Anthony Vidler, Raimund Abraham, Carl Andre and Dan Sherer. Together with Daniel Meridor she edited and designed Open City: Existential Urbanity, The Architecture of the City Studio 2001–2014 (Charta, 2015), a compendium of student projects drawn from her urbanism studios at Cooper Union presented with essays by architects and artists.
Throughout her career Lewis also served on a wide range of faculties across the US and abroad, including the Harvard Graduate School of Design; Yale University; the Technical University of Berlin; the Architectural Association; the University of Edinburgh; and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She was the 2006 recipient of the Gehry International Chair in Design at the University of Toronto, and received the Brunner Grant from the AIA New York Chapter in 2007.