The exhibition presents twelve civic architecture projects for twelve different localities by twelve architects, side by side with videos that feature the late architect and longtime Cooper Union professor Diane Lewis. The videos—presented publicly for the first time at the Biennale 2021—thus confront the diverse proposals exhibited and bring them into a contemporary dialogue with the literary dimension of architecture. For Diane Lewis the city was not only the result of a great number of historical, inextricable strata of form and memory. It was also greater than the sum of its individual architectures, and a mental universe all its own. Apart from her drawings, models and built projects, she most effectively conveyed her insights through the medium of film, which captured her unique presence and unmistakable voice—among the most characteristic distillations of the architectural “message” of Cooper Union from the 1970s to the mid-2000s.

Architectural historians Daniel Sherer and Barry Bergdoll converse about the themes and approach in this series of short films, created in the final months of her life. In these captivating on-screen testimonials not only did the architect narrate the past of the city through the indices of its present, and in light of its possible futures, she opened up a dialogue with urban phenomena through the moving image, which captured succinctly her ideas and singular persona as a designer and pedagogue. Through these lenses the exhibition touches on critical questions—narratological, ecological, social and metahistorical— providing and provoking spatial architectural identities.

Image:  Diane Lewis 1977
The Architectural Drawings and Papers of Diane H. Lewis.

Courtesy of the Frances Loeb Library,

Harvard University Graduate School of Design