Personal profile

Research interests

Luis Diaz’s area of research is the interrelationship between spatial practices and spatial forms. Theories of the everyday (Henri Lefebvre and Michel de Certeau) are used in tandem with linguistic theories (structuralism, semiotics, speech-act theory) to go beyond the limitations of actor-network theory and structure versus agency debates. This approach was developed for his MPhil using housing estates built in Camden during the 1960s and 1970s as case studies (Alexandra Road, Maiden Lane, Highgate New Town). Current research focuses on the arrival sequences in British housing as an area where both an individual user’s identity and spatial identities are formed. This research has been informed by the work of his undergraduate design studio (Studio 12) which has focused on housing for the last several years. The research aims to demonstrate the importance of architectural form in the framing of agency as well as providing an alternative reading of what constitutes success and failure in the history of twentieth-century housing in Britain.

Other areas of interest are in the history of modernism and modern architecture, modernist painting, theories of movement and experience, fragmented and peripheral urban space, public and social housing, and political and ideological aspects of space and form.

Scholarly biography

Luis Diaz was co-founder of the research-based practice, Brooklyn Architects Collective, which carried out urban design research for the New York Municipal Arts Society and the Greenpoint/Williamsburg Waterfront Coalition. In 1998 the practice was a selected prize winner, receiving a certificate of merit, for their proposal for the Brooklyn Waterfront in the Van Alen Institute East River Competition. In addition, the practice carried out small residential and commercial design projects. These two disparate practices (research and design) and scales (urban and domestic) led to an interest in research focusing on small scale everyday practices and their relationship to architectural space.

Over the years Diaz has presented conference papers at international conferences and has recently published chapters based on recent housing research. In addition, he was involved in developing links among the university, the local council and local community groups. Completed projects include studies for the Triangle Community Group (Brighton) and the Seaford Seafront Theme Group. Both studies culminated in exhibits which brought together community members and local politicians. A live project for the locally based Rwandan Youth Information Community Organisation (rYico) was based around the design of residences and a training centre for children in Kigali, Rwanda. The designs helped rYico secure extant buildings gifted to them by the local government in Kigali.

Diaz received a BArch from the New York Institute of Technology (1990) and spent the next ten years in a combination of practice, teaching and research. He has studied at the Berlage Institute, the Bartlett (MSc History of Modern Architecture), The New School for Social Research (semiotics) and the London School of Economics (MPhil/PhD study) and completed an MPhil at the University of Brighton.

Teaching experience includes architectural design and computer aided drawing at the New York Institute of Technology. Since relocating to the UK in 2000 he has taught history and theory at the Kent Institute of Design and is now Senior Lecturer at the University of Brighton. He was course leader for the BA(Hons) Architecture course and Year 3 coordinator between 2009-11 and is now admissions tutor. Diaz contributes to the architectural humanities modules and runs Studio 12 in the undergraduate program. 

Community Research & Engagement

2019 Public Practice, Buildings for People: Designing for Communities at High Density. Contribution to report and panel discussion on role of access and community spaces in high density housing for the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation plans for 6,500 dwelling.

2012-15 Office for Spatial Research. Luis assisted the Brighton and Hove City Council with preparing a brief for the Lively Cities, EU INTERREG IVB, competition for a temporary transformation of the area around Ann Street and Providence Place Gardens, adjacent to St. Bartholowmew’s Church. In addition, Luis served on the competition short-listing panel and final selection panel. The project was built and tested over a two-week period in October 2012 and continues to assist the council with future and more permanent interventions in the area.

2011-15 Office for Spatial Research. With the help of recent graduates of the BA(Hons) Architecture program, we worked with rYico, a registered charity in Brighton, on designs for the Gasogi Youth and Children’s Centre. rYico purchased land in Kigali, Rwanda with the intention of building two dormitories and a training and counselling centre. The charity works to support and train vulnerable young people in Kigali, providing accommodation, employable skills and counselling. The designs were developed in collaboration with children from the centre, and the research investigated local materials and sustainable practices, and modes of cross-cultural professional/user collaboration. The project was put on hold after rYico secured several buildings from the local government based on their demonstration of their commitment to the project via our collaboration.

2011-12 Office for Spatial Research. The BA (Hons) Architecture programme and the Office for Spatial Research worked with the Seaford Community Partnership  to help identify areas and ways in which the seafront promenade can be made more beautiful and enjoyable for residents and attract visitors to the town.  Second and third year architecture students took part in surveys, analytical exercises, and a carried out a one-week design project to investigate and draw up visions for the beach and its environs. The project culminated in an exhibition, ‘Rethinking the Seafront’, at the Crypt Gallery, Seaford, 23-25 March 2012. The exhibition was opened by Norman Baker, MP, with sixteen town and county councillors and the mayor of Seaford in attendance. The exhibit attracted 650 visitors in two days. The Office for Spatial Research and the Seaford Community Partnership are currently seeking funding for a second stage research project.

2010-11 Office for Spatial Research (with Susanah Hagan). The ‘On Our Doorsteps’ programme, run by the University of Brighton Community University Partnership Programme (CUPP), funded a scoping project (£5000) to produce initial strategies for improving the 'triangle' of streets and houses in Brighton for the Triangle Community Group. This consisted of a collaboration among Triangle, members of the Office for Spatial Research, and post-graduate architecture students. Working closely with the Triangle community, the Architecture programme offered trained designers to generate specific insight into and strategies for the physical improvement of the Triangle neighbourhood. The results of the research exercise were exhibited at the Phoenix Gallery, Brighton, 27-28 May 2011 with community members and local politicians in attendance.

Conference papers

2019 “An Epic Silent Film: Alexandra Road and the shifting grounds of Welfare State housing in Britain” for Architecture and Democracy 1965-1989: Urban Renewal, Populism and the Welfare State, European Architectural History Network (EAHN), Rotterdam & Delft, 20-21 November 2019. Peer reviewed and published in proceedings. With Tom Davies.

2016 'Coming Home: Between history and the future, on spatial forms and practices in the history and education of housing' delivered at Architecture Media Politics Society (AMPS) Government and Housing in a Time of Crisis conference, Liverpool, 8-9 September 2016.

2015 'Le Corbusier's Cité de Refuge: historical & technological performance of the air exacte' (Luis Diaz & Ryan Southall) paper delivered at Le Corbusier, 50 years later, Universitat Politecnica De Valencia, Valencia, 18-20 November, 2015.

2014 'Mondrian's Mirrors: Utopia in Piet Mondrian's writings, paintings and Paris studio' paper delivered at European Network for Avant-garde and Modernism Studies (EAM) 4th International Conference, Utopia, Helsinki 29-31 August 2014.

2009 'The Responsibility of Forms: The Spatial Form and Practice of Arrival' paper delivered at the Occupation: Negotiations with Constructed Space conference, Brighton, 2 - 4 July 2009.

2007 'Neither Here nor There: Walking in forgotten territories', Updated paper delivered at the RGS with IBG Annual International Conference; session: Walking and the Everyday, London, 29-31 August

'Towards a History of Interior Architecture' paper delivered at the Thinking Inside the Box Interiors Forum Scotland Conference, Glasgow, Scotland, 1 - 2 March 2007

2005 'The Everyday and ‘Other’ Spaces: Low Rise-High Density Housing in Camden', paper delivered at the EAAE Conference, 'The Rise of Heterotopia (On Public Space and the Architecture of the Everyday in Post-Civil Society),' Leuven, Belgium, 26-28 May

2004 'Neither Here nor There: Walking in forgotten territories', paper delivered at the Walk21 (5th International Conference on Walking in the 21st Century), Copenhagen, Denmark, 9-11 June

2001 'Urban promenades and fragmented space', presentation delivered at URBEUR (Studi Urbani e Locali Europei - Urban and Local European Studies), Milan, Italy, 27-28 January

1998 'Alexandra Road and Maiden Lane', paper delivered at the American Collegiate Schools of Architecture Regional Conference, Halifax, Nova Scotia, October

Book Chapters

2017 “Coming Home: Forms of Spatial and Social Identity in British Housing” in Housing the Future – Innovations in Theory and Practice, Faringdon: Libri Publishng. Peer reviewed.

2017 “Studio 12: Housing Design Studio” in Housing the Future – Innovations in Theory and Practice, Faringdon: Libri Publishing. Peer reviewed.

2013 “The Responsibility of Form: Space and Practice in the Entry Sequences of Housing Estates” in Occupations: Negotiations with Constructed Space, University of Brighton ISBN 978-1-905593-73-6 & 978-1-905593-74-3. Peer reviewed.

2007 “Discourse, History and Interior Architecture: Notes on a possible history of interior architecture” in Thinking Inside the Box: A Reader in Interior Design for the 21st Century, London: Middlesex University Press. Refereed. ISBN 978 1 904750 22 2. pp. 167-176. Peer reviewed.

Other Publications

2006 'Modernism: Designing a New World 1914-1939,' Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 6 April - 23 July 2006, exhibition review published in Il Giornale Dell’ Architettura (Year 5, no.41, June, p26)

2005 'Building for the Human Being, Eileen Gray at the Design Museum, London, 17 September 2005 to 8 January 2006' exhibition review published in Il Giornale Dell’ Architettura (Year 4, no35, December, p40)

2004 'The Nature of Order: An Interview with Christopher Alexander,' published in Italian in Il Giornale Dell’ Architettura (year 3, no15, February 2004, p8) and in English by City (vol8, no1, April, pp109-114)

Approach to teaching

I teach history and theory across all years and run a vertical design studio, which combines second and third year students.

My approach is very much concerned with group and collective learning. We talk one-on-one with students but within a group context, discussing what they are working on while exploring issues that can help everyone.

We encourage the group to draw on different experiences and practices, working from personal histories and backgrounds, my own drawing from having lived in New York, Holland and Africa. The aim is to encourage an understanding that when they are designing, students are contributing to the greater culture of design. The group dynamic allows us to help students understand, that whatever they might be struggling with, they are not alone. Once everyone has opened up, it becomes easier to share and work within the group. They also learn by seeing me actively work through various design problems. Drawing is used as a means of ‘Thinking Out Loud’, which continues as a group activity after the formal teaching period.

Writing an essay is a very solitary act and I encourage students to see themselves as teachers, to understand that they can help each other by reading each other’s papers and having a conversation. They are able to offer each other insights which lifts the whole level of their learning. I like to use images and films in my teaching and am passionate about sharing my collection of books and journals. Students don’t learn in a vacuum and such resources offer a springboard; a means of researching and understanding design.

Supervisory Interests

Luis Diaz supervises and examines at PhD level and is available for supervision on topics related to housing, spatial form, movement and promenades in architectural and urban space, and architectural semiotics and structuralism. Topics can span the range of scales from interior space to architecture and urban landscapes. Diaz is currently supervising a PhD on the historical and contemporary use of the figure ground in urban design and another (at the Oslo School of Architecture) on the role of community engagement in listed brutalist housing estates. Current research areas focus on movement and circulation patterns in housing estates, post-war social and council housing, and everyday experiences of housing.

Education/Academic qualification

Master, MPhil, Architecture, University of Brighton

Award Date: 30 Aug 2009

MPhil/PhD, The London School of Economics and Political Science

Award Date: 30 Aug 2002

Master, MSc in History of Modern Architecture, University College London

Award Date: 30 Sept 1997

Postgraduate Module in Semiotics, The New School for Social Research

Award Date: 31 May 1993

Unknown, Post Graduate Design Modules, The Berlage Institute, Amsterdam

Award Date: 28 Feb 1991

Bachelor, BArch, New York Institute of Technology

Award Date: 31 May 1990

Associates Degree in Applied Science, Architecture, New York City Technical College

Award Date: 31 May 1984

External positions

PhD Supervisor, Oslo School of Architecture and Design

1 May 20191 May 2022


  • NA Architecture
  • housing
  • modernism
  • structuralism
  • form
  • space


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