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The Project Description:


OPEN CITY: EXISTENTIAL URBANITY is a compendium of student work and faculty essays from the Architecture Studio on the art of the city, conducted by Cooper Union Professor and alumna Diane Lewis and a team of notable architects at the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture from 2001 to 2014 described and proposed in OPEN CITY. The Symposium Day Two, on Saturday, November 21, at the MoMa is free. The symposium will include many of the architecture alumni of the past 15 years as part of a New York and international collection of architects artists and curators sharing experience and accomplishments on the subject of the civic space as the ART/WORK for this time. The closing party will provide a unique opportunity for our community of thinkers to meet, make connections, and initiate a new period of advancing the vision founded on the works described and proposed in OPEN CITY.
The platform of Professor Lewis’s design studios, as well as the team of artists, architects and historians it is comprised of, is based in the thinking and large scale objectives embodied in the vision of Peter Cooper particularly shared with William Cullen Bryant at the outset of our institution.
Please join us in supporting the Kickstarter Campaign. Share it with your friends, and join us at the symposium.



Friday November 20, 9:30AM-6:00PM
The Sky Room of the New Museum
235 Bowery at Prince Street
New York, NY 10002


Saturday November 21, 9:30AM-5:00PM
Roy and Niuta Titus Auditorium 1 of the Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd Street
New York, NY 10019


Saturday November 21, 6:00PM-8:00PM
The Stuyvesant Fish House
21 Stuyvesant Street
New York, NY 10003




This book will be launched with a
symposium and a book-signing, currently planned for November 19 to 21, to include the day long symposia which will be held at the New Museum and the Museum of Modern Art. Details will be announced in late September.

OPEN CITY: EXISTENTIAL URBANITY is a compendium of student work and faculty essays from the Architecture Studio on the art of the city, conducted by Professor Diane Lewis and a team of notable architects at the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture from 2001 to 2014.

This book is… a very dense and rich anthology, where one could spend hours with each project, finding both its personal histories and the histories that it becomes interested in.” -Barry Bergdoll, Curator of Architecture & Design, MoMA NY

The book builds on the tradition of two earlier publications entitled Education of An Architect: A Point of View (1972) and Education of an Architect (1988), which established the internationally influential curriculum that begins with Architectonics, the structural and spatial vocabulary of architecture, and demonstrated the unique impact of that foundation on the five-year degree program at The Cooper Union. The subtitle “Existential Urbanity” reveals the underlying interest in the neo-realist concepts of the Italian Cinema and its parallels in Architecture: the architectural art of cultivating the “text” of an existing place into the significance of the form and use envisioned for a open space and civic institution.

The anthology represents drawings, models, and texts for works of civic architecture. Each of the project proposals considers the architectural memory of a given site as inspiration to the design of the structural form and the humanitarian program proposed. This unique study of the city advanced at The Cooper Union presents a strong picture of a generation’s cutting-edge civic activism, poetic vision and concerns about sustainability, which are aptitudes identified with the legacy of this architecture school.

Apropos of the theoretical roots and the poetics of this approach to the city, Richard Meier, Barry Bergdoll, Curator of Architecture and Design at MoMA, and Diane Lewis contributed the introductory essays with an epilogue by Professor Anthony Vidler, Dean of the School of Architecture from 2001 to 2013. The introduction also includes essays by Peter Schubert and Francois de Menil. The illustrious and diverse roster of the team who participated in teaching this design studio with Professor Lewis whose essays introduce each studio chapter include the architects Peter Schubert, Georg Windeck, Mersiha Veledar, Roger Duffy, Calvin Tsao, Thomas Tsang, Daniel Meridor and Robert Estrin, and the historian/theorist Dan Scherer. Texts by diverse contributors such as writer Fran Lebowitz, and Karen Wong, Deputy Director of The New Museum, powerfully frame the overarching philosophy of the OPEN CITY studio. Here, the form of the city is based in the invention and the art of siting singularly authored, poetic works of architecture within the city plan. The projects require the author/ architect to envision a simultaneously specific and ideal architectural work for the collective and for their time, which is drawn and modeled at a detailed architectural scale. These attributes present a studio discipline taught as the architectural art of the city, as opposed to planning or urban design.

The architects who comprise the team teaching, hallmark of the Cooper studio education, is represented in each chapter of OPEN CITY. Each chapter is introduced with a final exhibition installation photograph, the brief of the project “as given”, and an introductory essay from one of the studio professors from the team of practicing architects and historians engaged in this study.

Each chapter frames a different problem given to address the contemporary challenges of a city considered as a work of art. Projects confront the challenge of relating the architectural urbanism of “Rome/Berlin/NY”, study “Cities of Catastrophe and their architectural solutions in regard to New Orleans”, present the concept “Vuotare,” the art of creating voids in the urban fabric, or question “Autonomies”, the architectural outcome of the spatial theories of the artist Lucio Fontana.

The interdisciplinary richness of these studios is illuminated by essays contributed by a selection of scholars who joined the critiques, such as Monika Pessler, Francesco Pellizzi and Mary Stieber, as well as a range of architectural colleagues and artists: Mack Scogin, Merrill Elam, William Singer, Catherine Ann Somerville Venart.

Careful thought from architects on the Cooper faculty with perspectives on the periods and the themes of OPEN CITY is reflected in essays by David Turnbull, Sam Anderson, Guido Zuliani, and David Gersten.

This book demonstrates the poetic dimension of taking on pressing contemporary problems of the city with a philosophy deeply rooted in the “architecture of the city” consciousness that has been derived and shared by the past 40 years of Cooper architects with architects of international repute who have considered the question of the existential presence of the architect in the collective work of the civic domain.

The project description written by each student to accompany the drawings and models, reveal that the studios required that these existential concerns be voiced parallel to establishing such objectives as an integration of housing and civic architecture after Hurricane Katrina, or follow the significance of the World Trade Center disaster to conceive and determine sites for civic institutions in such major cities as Rome, Berlin and New York. These studios conducted by Professor Lewis at Cooper Union provide a unique record of the young alumni, who are currently practicing and teaching internationally. They have created a vision with impact; an illumination of provocative and generative conditions in existing cities and the projection and extension of great works of architecture as site-specific civic projects with unconventional, inventive, humanitarian programs for our epoch.

OPEN CITY was published in part with a gift of the Austrian Frederick and Lillian Kiesler Private Foundation’s first Young Kiesler Award. This grant was awarded in recognition of a philosophical bond between the work of Frederick Kiesler and the spirit of the studio endeavors conducted by Professor Lewis. Additional awards and grants from the Cooper Union, the Schubert Family Foundation, Sciame Construction LLC, Pritzker Foundation, Francois de Menil and a number of Cooper architecture alumni were received for this publication, with the focus on a continuity with the refined expression of the rich architectural accomplishment that our two previous books disseminated, and to reiterate the commitment to architectural inventiveness, civic inspiration and responsibility that identify the character of the architecture from this New York City perspective.


(Charta Milano, ISBN: 978-888158-882-4)
Edited & Designed by Diane Lewis and Daniel Meridor, Faculty
Hardcover; 368 pages; $75.00
Charta Milano
ISBN: 978-888158-882-4
August 2015


Faculty Members on the Editorial and Design Team:

Diane Lewis, Architect is Professor of Architecture at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Arts in the The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture. She is the first woman architect who was tenured to the school’s full-time faculty in 1991. She has conducted the studio on the city, among other studios and history theory seminars and required courses, at Cooper for 34 years. Recipient of the Rome Prize in Architecture (1976), her independent practice received a National Design Award from the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt (2008), and is a two-time nominee for the Daimler Chrysler award.

Professor Lewis is the principal of Diane Lewis Architects P.C., founded in 1983. Recognized designs from the practice include the New York Kunshalle in New York City, NY, a plan for the adaptive reuse of Paul Rudolph’s Riverview High School in Sarasota, FL, an AIA honorable mention for Les Tuileries restaurant in New York City, as well as internationally published projects over the 34 years of this practice. The architectural monograph, DIANE LEWIS-INSIDE OUT: Architecture New York City, was published by Charta Milano in 2006.

Her architectural professorships include the Frank Gehry International Visiting Chair in Architectural Design at the University of Toronto The John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design (2005-2006); the Davenport Studio at the Yale School of Architecture with John Hejduk (1982), and with Frank Gehry (1989- 1990); guest professor at Technical University of Berlin (1998-2000); Simpson Visiting Professor at the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at the University of Edinburgh (1992); visiting professor at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (1991-1995 and 2003); and Unit Master at Architectural Association School of Architecture (1996).

Daniel Meridor, AR’06, is an Instructor of Architecture at The Cooper Union, currently teaching in the M.Arch II and the B.Arch programs. Before establishing StudioDMeridor+, he worked in the office of Diane Lewis Architects. Daniel Meridor co-invented and built a mobile tool for the construction field that was chosen to participate in Google’s Project Tango, an initiative aimed at utilizing new ways of constructing space-in-movement through mobile devices. He has studied architecture at Tel Aviv University, VIU and The Cooper Union.


Kim Newman, Media Relations Manager
Cooper Union Office of Communications
30 Cooper Square, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10003