Diane Shaw


Associate Professor

Diane Shaw is Associate Professor and architectural historian in the School of Architecture at Carnegie Mellon University. In addition to teaching the introductory survey of world architecture, her research and teaching interests include vernacular architecture and regional traditions of North America, the interpretation and preservation of cultural landscapes, American house and housing, and urban design history. Expanding the traditional disciplinary definition of an “Americanist,” she also teaches a course on Mesoamerican, Spanish Colonial, and Modern Architecture in Mexico and Guatemala. Dr. Shaw has won several teaching honors including the Henry Hornbostel Teaching Award from the CMU College of Fine Arts.

Dr. Shaw’s publications emphasize the cultural context behind the architecture of the more typical and often overlooked urban landscapes. She is particularly interested in the physical and social constructions of public space at various urban scales. Her interdisciplinary study City Building on the Eastern Frontier: Sorting the New 19th-Century City (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004) developed the concept of vernacular urbanism as a method of examining the intertwined urban, architectural, and social processes that created Syracuse and Rochester, New York – a new type of speculator’s city along the Erie Canal. She has also published on the ways in which 19th-century residents of colonial Frederick, Maryland used architecture to push their town across the vernacular threshold and into urban and urbane status. Drawing on the medieval English Assize of Nuisance records, she has investigated the ways that nuisance laws and building codes protected property-based definitions of personal privacy within the dense medieval fabric of London, England. Dr. Shaw’s recent research focuses on the architectural implications of early 20th-century community reform efforts. She has written about urban subdivisions as a form of housing reform for the middle class in Washington, DC. Additionally, she has published articles on the evolutionary arc of two now-iconic expressions of Mexico: the archeological site of Chichén Itzá and the ritual of pole flyers (voladores). Dr. Shaw is currently researching the village improvement movement as an architectural response to rural decline in New England.

Dr. Shaw has presented papers and served as commentator at the national conferences for several disciplines, including the Vernacular Architecture Forum, the Society of Architectural Historians, the Society of American City and Regional Planning History, the Association of American Geographers, and the American Studies Association. She has also held leadership positions within several professional organizations. She has served several terms on the Board of Directors of the Vernacular Architecture Forum, where she also served as the editor of the VAF Special Publications Series. In 2002 she was appointed by the governor to the Advisory Board of the Bureau of Historic Preservation for the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission and served as Chair from 2005-2006.

Diane Shaw received her Ph.D. in Architectural History from the University of California at Berkeley, a M.A. in American Studies from the George Washington University, and a B.A. in History from Smith College.