Diane H. Lewis. Photo: Rob Mattson.

Diane H. Lewis (1951–2017)

Architect Diane H. Lewis, a professor at Cooper Union’s Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture, has died. Lewis came to Cooper as a student in 1968 and started her architecture studies at the school in 1970. In 1976, the year she graduated, she was awarded the Rome Prize in Architecture. She was one of the youngest architects to be recognized by the American Academy in Rome.

Lewis spent some time working for I.M. Pei and Richard Meier. She eventually opened her own firm, Diane Lewis Architects PC, in 1983. She also taught extensively—at the University of Virginia, Yale University, the University of Toronto (where she was the Frank Gehry Visiting Chair in 2006), the Technical University of Berlin, and the Harvard Graduate School of Design. When she was brought in to teach at Cooper, she was the first female architect to be hired full-time; she gained tenured in 1993. “In an age when few dedicate themselves to teaching as a craft, her focus on creating a transformative space of learning will be a central part of her lasting legacy. Indeed, as much as Lewis was a product of Cooper Union, today we can look back at more than thirty years of her contributions and come to realize that we are, in fact, defined by the culture of her teaching,” wrote Nader Tehrani, dean of the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture.

Lewis was the recipient of the John Q. Hejduk Award, and received nominations for the Cooper Hewitt’s National Design Award and the Daimler Chrysler Award. Her work has been exhibited at New York’s Van Alen Institute and the Cooper Hewitt Museum, as well as Berlin’s Galerie Aedes. “I will personally miss Diane dearly, most especially the tenacity with which she engaged in fierce architectural debate,” said Tehrani. “She led [Cooper Union] symbolically.”