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Cuff (center) listens to audience commentary alongside Neil Denari (left) and Dean Brett Steele during an event at UCLA AUD
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Public, and Personal: Ahead of March 7 Faculty Research Lecture, a look at the public work and public good of Dr. Dana Cuff

Feb 27, 2024

“Few can claim as large an influence on the built environment throughout California as Dana Cuff.”

That’s how the AIA-Los Angeles introduced Cuff in its 2020 profile, commemorating her selection as the 2020 AIA-LA Educator of the Year.

Including her three decades of teaching, leadership, and service at UCLA, Dr. Dana Cuff has dedicated her career to intensive and extensive research on the public–and, importantly, to sharing and integrating that research and those outcomes with the public.

Cuff’s work and its public reception have created a very real impact. Throughout her career, she has poured her knowledge and research into public platforms across the globe–interviews, op-eds, exhibitions, addresses and speeches, books, journals, installations, and virtually every other format of public dissemination. In co-founding the research center cityLAB at UCLA in 2006, Cuff established a profound source of design and planning discourse, insight, and action. Browse the full roster of cityLAB projects.

Cuff offers commentary during a 2019 review session at UCLA AUD. Photo courtesy Kylie Carrigan/UCLA Arts

Cuff recently co-authored two California Assembly Bills that have transformed planning and the built environment in Los Angeles and throughout California, particularly on housing and affordability. She has shaped, fundamentally, both design and the public perception of design. Check out Cuff's recent interview with UCLA Newsroom: "Can ‘urban humanism’ reverse L.A.’s housing crisis? In some ways, it already has"

Cuff reaches another milestone this March as she serves as UCLA’s 135th Faculty Research Lecturer, presenting an address on Thursday, March 7. Ahead of her talk, AUD takes a walk through Cuff’s extraordinary career thus far.


Cuff joins the College of Design and Planning, University of Colorado, Boulder, as Assistant Professor


Cuff earns a PhD in Architecture at the University of California at Berkeley, where she was also named a Distinguished Teaching Associate in 1981, and earned First Prize in the University’s Student Paper Competition in 1980


Cuff joins Rice University School of Architecture as Assistant Professor


Cuff earns her first major national grant, from the National Endowment for the Arts, for “In Search of Design Excellence”; she’d earn a second NEA grant in 1992, for “Form in Contention” with T. Banerjee


Cuff joins USC as Assistant Professor in the School of Urban and Regional Planning and the School of Architecture; she would be promoted to Associate Professor in 1990


Cuff forms design consultancy Cuff, Liu, Ellis, Wittman–CLEW Associates


Cuff earns the Distinguished Service Award from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture


Cuff is chosen as a founding faculty member of the new architecture program at UC San Diego, along with Craig Hodgetts. When that school closes two years later, both will join UCLA. In this year, Cuff also wins the American Institute of Architects Book Publishers Award for Architecture: The Story of Practice, published via MIT Press


Cuff begins her time at UCLA, joining AUD’s faculty. She would be promoted to Professor in 1999, and awarded Step VI in 2013


As an Arts and Humanities Scholar at Getty Research Institute, Cuff produces “Perspectives on Los Angeles” and “Temporary Permanence: Housing Excavations in Los Angeles.” These projects form the foundations for her next book on LA Housing.


Cuff is named Vice Chair at AUD. Her six years in the role would include one as Acting Chair (1999-2000); she would reprise the Vice Chair role in 2007


Cuff founds Community Design Associates and leads CDA as Principal, consulting in programming and community planning

Also, Cuff is promoted to Professor at UCLA AUD


Cuff exhibits “Live Dangerously” at UCLA's Hammer Museum, in conjunction with the Museum of Modern Art's (MoMA) “Unprivate House Show”


Cuff joins the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urbanism as board member, and founds the UCLA Institute for Pervasive Computing and Society, which she would direct until 2006, with support from the UCLA Chancellor’s Fund


Cuff is part of the team that earns the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence for Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, led by Daly Genik Architects, now kevin daly Architects, with Community Design Associates, directed by Cuff

Architects and other visitors tour Camino Nuevo Charter Academy with Kevin Daly in 2019; image courtesy Camino Nuevo Charter Academy


Cuff serves as Founding Fellow for UCLA’s newly established Ziman Center for Real Estate Development


With AUD’s Roger Sherman, Cuff founds UCLA cityLAB, where she is currently Director. The establishment of cityLAB was made possible by the generous support of Sarah Jane Lind, and its ongoing activities are sustained through the philanthropic backing of Cindy Miscikowski. Recent support from the UCLA Office of Research and Creative Activities shows the importance of cityLAB to UCLA. Check out Archinect's 2017 profile: "UCLA's cityLAB Turns 10"

Additionally, Cuff collaborates with musician Ry Cooder on “Chavez Ravine,” an album documenting the history of central LA’s Latino neighborhoods


Cuff earns a Graham Foundation grant for “WPA 2.0: Working Public Architecture," an international design competition culminating in an exhibition at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., with participation by the Obama White House

Still from WPA 2.0, courtesy cityLAB at UCLA


Cuff joins the Venice Architecture Biennale, presenting exhibition “Workshopping” as part of the U.S. Pavilion. She also earns a grant from the Spanish Ministry of Culture’s Program for Cultural Cooperation for “Urbanización: Barcelona’s Infrastructure as Public Architecture,” and appears on the CNN International broadcast package “The Future of Los Angeles”


Cuff is named a Fellow of the Royal Swedish Academy, presenting “The Future of World Cities” and meeting with the King of Sweden (!)

Also, Cuff earns a Graham Foundation grant for “OP City," convening teams of architects and media artists, each of which developed and presented case-study experiments exploring the use of new, popularly accessible analytical and visualization techniques that enable one to see the city anew.


Cuff, with UCLA colleagues Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, Todd Presner, and Maite Zubbiaurre, earns major funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for “The Urban Turn: Collective Life in Megacities of the Pacific Rim.” The Mellon Foundation would renew its support in 2016 and again in 2020, for the Urban Humanities Initiative

Later that year, Cuff, with Roger Sherman, receives support from the Mayors’ Institute on City Design, National Endowment for the Arts, American Architectural Foundation, and US Conference of Mayors


Cuff is appointed to the Citizen’s Oversight Board by California State Controller John Chiang, Clean Energy Jobs Act, Proposition 39 (sustainable school construction funding)


Cuff and cityLAB install the full-scale “BI(h)OME Demonstration House” (led by kevin daly Architects) at UCLA. Developed as a prototype of cityLAB's Backyard Homes study, the Backyard BI(h)OME is flexibly designed to meet goals of easy fabrication, sustainability, and affordability

Cuff also earns the Presidential Honor and Community Contribution Award from the American Institute of Architects Los Angeles Chapter.


Alongside cityLAB Fellow Jane Blumenfeld, Cuff co-authors California State Legislation’s Assembly Bill No. 2299: Accessory Dwelling Unit Bill, through the office of Congressman Richard Bloom. AB2299 was approved in September 2016, and signed into law in January 2017 by Governor Jerry Brown. In each year following implementation, the construction of ADUs has increased, with more than 60,000 permits issued in California in 2022 alone, more than half of those in LA

Governor Brown signs AB2299 in January 2017; image courtesy cityLAB at UCLA


Cuff earns the College of Environmental Design Distinguished Alumna Award, UC Berkeley; the World Changing Ideas Award for Urban Design, Fast Company, for the Los Angeles ADU Project with the Los Angeles Innovation Team; and the American Institute of Architects National Award (Small Building Award) for BIHOME (cityLAB with kevin daly Architects)


Cuff reveals BruinHub, a 24/7 space for UCLA students who face extreme commutes or housing insecurity, with facilities to nap, stay overnight, study, store belongings. Designed by AUD students led by Marta Nowak, the Wooden Center’s BruinHub is the result of partnerships across UCLA.


AIA-LA names Cuff the 2020 Educator of the Year

Cuff, center, amid jury discussing during Rumble 2023 at AUD


Cuff co-authors California State Legislation’s Assembly Bill No. 2295: Education Workforce Housing Development. The bill was formally introduced by Congressman Richard Bloom, and signed into law in September 2022 by Governor Gavin Newsom. “I hope that like our ADU law, AB2299, this bill and its passage lead to new work for architects,” Cuff says. “Good design will be essential to making these infill projects a success.”

Image courtesy cityLAB at UCLA

And, Cuff is one of three global leaders to receive an Honorary Doctorate this year from Lund University's Faculty of Engineering (LTH) in Sweden


Cuff launches her latest book, Architectures of Spatial Justice, in AUD’s Perloff Courtyard

And, finally, Cuff is named UCLA’s 135th Faculty Research Lecturer–join us on March 7!

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Dana Cuff, Roger Sherman, Kevin Daly, Craig Hodgetts
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