Diana Agrest

The Irwin S. Chanin Distinguished Professor

Diana Agrest, FAIA, is an internationally renowned architect well known for her unique and pioneering approach to architecture and urbanism developed both in practice and theory, through work, writing and pedagogy. She is a founder and principal of Agrest and Gandelsonas Architects in New York, and develops her own individual projects as well. Diana Agrest has been involved in the design and building of projects ranging from urban design projects and master plans to parks, civic and residential buildings, single family houses and interiors in the US, Europe, South America and Asia since 1970 and which have received numerous awards.

Diana Agrest is a full-time Professor of Architecture at The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of The Cooper Union for Advancement of Science and Art where she has taught since 1977.

Prior to teaching at Cooper she taught full time at Princeton University’s School of Architecture from 1972-76, and was the first woman architect to teach there. She has also taught at Columbia and Yale Universities and abroad. She was a Fellow of the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies from 1972-1984.

As part of a series on "50 Great Teachers," the April 21, 2015 broadcast on "All Things Considered" focused on Prof. Agrest's sometimes surprising methods for approaching the study of architecture. Listen to the full story here.

Diana Agrest has developed unique pedagogical approaches to architectural pedagogy whereby there is no separation between theory and practice, between analysis and project focusing on Urban Form, Film, Nature, and the Body. She directed and gave the pedagogical orientation to the Advanced Research Studio of the M.Arch II Program of the Cooper Union full-time, from its beginning in 2009 until 2016, and curated eight public Thesis exhibitions and other M.Arch II work at The Cooper Union's Arthur A. Houghton Jr. Gallery.

Since the beginning of her career Agrest has focused on film and developed a critical approach to architecture based in great part on film and film theory. She was the first to bring this subject to architecture as a critically productive approach to redefine urban discourse which she has developed in theory, practice and education.

She created and directed Framing the City: Film, Video, Urban Architecture in summer and fall of 1993 at the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Department of Film and Video, and has applied this approach pedagogically as a way of approaching urban discourse and urban architecture. She has produced over eighty short films on the city made by students in her studios.

Diana Agrest has been working on the subject of Nature in practice, theory and education since 1989, being a pioneer in what was later called "Landscape Urbanism". starting with her own work, the visionary and influential project "The Machine in the Garden, China Basin, San Francisco" and the subsequent essay The Return of the Repressed: Nature, She has developed a unique approach, both in her "Architecture of Nature/Nature of Architecture" studios, relating architecture nature science and representation. The outcome is exemplified in her book Architecture of Nature/Nature of Architecture. 

She has published:

  • Architecture of Nature/Nature of Architecture, Diana Agrest, with essays by Diana Agrest and contributions by Peter L. Galison and Caroline A. Jones; D. Graham -Burnett and John McPhee, AR+D Applied Research and Design Publications, ORO Publishers, 2019.
  • The Sex of Architecture, eds. Diana Agrest, Patricia Conway and Leslie Kanes Weismann, Harry N Abrams, New York, 1996.
  • Agrest and Gandelsonas: Works, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 1995.
  • Memories and Places, for The Cooper Union, Rizzoli, New York, 1984.
  • A Romance with the City: Irwin S. Chanin, editor, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, New York, 1982.

Selected books featuring Agrest's work and essays include:

  • AIA Guide to New York Architecture, current.
  • Architecture Itself and Other Postmodernization Effects by Sylvia Lavin, Specter Books, June 2020.
  • Latin America in Construction 1955-1980, ed. Barry Bergdoll, Comas, Liernur, MoMA 2015.
  • New York, Regulate to Innovate, Ed. by Jean Louis Cohen and Ariella Masboungi, Editions Parenthese, Paris, Fr. 2014.
  • Image, Body, Law.: Interdisciplinary in Contemporary Gender Studies Ed. by Katerina Mishchenko and Susanne Strätling. Kiev: Meduza 2014.
  • Architecture, Urbanism and Infrastructure, Princeton University, 2012.
  • The Body, Special Publication, Review of Philosophy and Literature, Institute of Philosophy, Warsaw University, 2012.
  • Modern Architecture A-Z, Peter Gössel, Benedikt Taschen GmbH, 2007.
  • New York 2000: Architecture and Urbanism from the Bicentennial to the Millennium, Stern, Fishman, Tilove, The Monacelli Press, 2007.
  • A Guide to Contemporary Architecture In America Vol 2. Toto, Tokyo, 2006.

Her work and writings have been widely published nationally and internationally in journals and newspapers including:
Architecture, Communication, Manifest, Progressive Architecture, Architectural Record, Architecture and Urbanism, Architecture d'Aujourdhui, Architectural Design, De Architect, Planning, Lotus, Oppositions, HG, Design Quarterly, Assemblage, Summa+, Plus, Casabella, The New York Times, Le Figaro, and La Nacion. etc.
She was an editor of Oppositions.

Film Making
Agrest has written, produced and directed the feature documentary film The Making of an Avant-Garde: The Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies 1967-1984, which premiered at The Museum of Modern Art in NY in June 2013, The film has been and continues to be screened globally in numerous venues including festivals, museums, architectural institutions, schools of architecture, etc. For more information on "The Making of an Avant-Garde" visit www.agrest-the-making-of-an-avant-garde.com.

Her work has been exhibited in the US, Europe, Asia and South America, including: The Museum of Modern Art (NY), Schenzen Biennial, Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Canadian Center for Architecture, The Walker Art Center, The Dallas Museum of Contemporary Art, The Fogg Museum, Leo Castelli Gallery, Center Pompidou, Milano Triennale, Frankfurt Architecture Museum, Yale University Gallery, Princeton University, etc.

Selected Recent Work

  • Downtown Agricultural Corridor: two miles of greenhouses within the city fabric for produce to be used in the city, providing food local consumption including homeless shelters and schools, with ancillary structures, street, gardens, cafes restaurants etc. Des Moines, IA, 2017-TBC.
  • Master Plan and Feasibility Study for the area of Jing Xi Water Town including transportation, a New Museum of Traditional Brick Fabrication and old furnaces, landscape, restaurants, etc. 2014.
  • Atmospheres and Sequences. Renewal of downtown street to create a main street. Creation of System of Activities, Narrative, Incorporation of Light Art, Des Moines, Iowa- 2014
  • Single family residence, Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles, CA, 2009-2010, completed.
  • John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park, Des Moines Iowa. A six acre park in downtown Des Moines for a major collection of contemporary sculpture donated to the Des Moines Art Center. Completion, September 2009.
  • Des Moines Vision Plan II, passed as law-2009, completed.

Recent Honors

  • Honorees, Agrest and Gandelsonas, John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park 10th Anniversary Gala, Des Moines Art Center, Fall 2019.
  • Honoree Storefront for Art and Architecture Spring Gala, 2019.
  • Architecture of Nature/Nature of Architecture, book launch panel with presentations by Beatriz Colomina, Kurt Forster, Peter L. Galison, Caroline A Jones, Sylvia Lavin.
  • Presenter and moderator: Paul Lewis, President, The Architectural League; The Great Hall, Cooper Union, sponsored jointly with The Architectural League. October 2019.
  • Publication of Architecture of Nature/Nature of Architecture, by Diana Agrest AR+D Publications and The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture, Fall 2019.
  • Four Follies, Models and Drawings by Agrest and Gandelsonas acquired for the permanent collection of the CCA, Montreal, Canada, 2019.
  • Four Follies, models and drawings included in: Architecture Itself, exhibition at the CCA, Montreal, Canada, 2018.
  • Received the BxW Built by Women, for the Melrose Community Center in New York, February 2015.
  • Work acquired by the Museum of Modern Art for its permanent collection, October 2014
  • Only architect nominated and selected by National Public Radio and interviewed for featured in All Things Considered, as one of 50 Great Teachers in the US in any subject, feature title: "Teaching Students hear the Music in the Built World."
  • She has been the recipient of Fellowships and grants from the French Government, The Graham Foundation, The New York State Council for the Arts, The AIA Brunner Grant.

Formal Education
Diana Agrest graduated with Diploma Architect from the University of Buenos Aires School of Architecture and Urbanism, 1967 and did post-graduate studies at the Centre de Recherche d'Urbanisme, and at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, VI Section, Paris, France 1967- 1969.


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