Job title: Lecturer, Architectural Design

Tel: +44 (0)131 651 4246


Office address: Minto House, Maltings, Room 4.10

Research outputs: Lisa Moffitt on Edinburgh Research Explorer

Lisa’s research, practice, and teaching expertise lies at the intersection of environmental design and architectural representation. Her work focuses on how natural processes give shape to and are shaped by the built environment and by the methods designers use to engage with these processes both at scale in the studio as well as through immersion on site.

Lisa has developed a portfolio of speculative and built design projects in independent practice at Studio Moffitt. Her most extensive project, the House on Limekiln Line, has been widely published online and in print including Dwell Magazine, ArchDaily, and Dezeen. Lisa co-founded, with Liam Ross, ESALA Projects, a design consultancy for research-lead design projects that involve student collaboration. From 2005-2008, she was a senior designer at PLANT Architect, Inc., an architecture and landscape architecture practice in Toronto, Canada, where she was on the first-place competition teams for the Dublin Veterans' Grounds of Remembrance, the Toronto City Hall Redevelopment Project, and Stratford Town Square.

Lisa’s research concentrates on themes explored in her Architecture by Design PhD thesis ‘Streamlines, Vortices, and Plumes: Environmental Models and their Shifting Targets’. In her thesis, historic case study models explore the reciprocities between the phenomena of airflow, the apparatuses that generate this phenomena, and the architecture they suggest. She also fabricates wind tunnels, water tables, and filling tanks, exploring how the prototyping process of environmental models yields design insights about how architecture mediates environmental processes. 

Lisa has been a Lecturer in Architectural Design at the University of Edinburgh since 2010. Prior to arriving at ESALA, she taught design and representation courses at the University of Toronto.

Lisa’s teaching bridges two disciplinary domains—environmental design and architectural representation—and operates methodologically at two scales—at scale in the studio and full-scale on site. Both scales of working entail making primarily fluid environmental processes visible and materially tangible, allowing them to play an active role as a design generator. This approach raises productive questions in the studio such as: how might buildings be understood as environmental instruments? How would an architecture of ballasts, baffles, funnels, and reservoirs operate? How do we design buildings of differentials, turbulence, control, or stasis?

Lisa’s teaching operates across landscape and building scales, framing landscapes as active registrars of environmental processes and buildings as passive buffers of those same processes. The expertise of working across disciplines was honed professionally through work as a senior designer at PLANT Architect, Inc. in Toronto, Ontario where she participated in several competition-winning architecture/landscape architecture hybrid projects, including the revitalization of Toronto City Hall.

Lisa is currently course organiser of the MArch Architectural Design Modular Studios G and B. She was previously course organiser of Architectural Design 3: Explorations and MSc Advanced Sustainable Design Project. She also contributes teaching to the MSc Advanced Sustainable Design Dissertation, and Technology and Environment 2a: Building Environment.

Lisa’s research explores the relationship between physical environmental models and their target systems (those attributes of the world that a model represents). Her doctoral research focuses on three historic case study environmental design models: Étienne Jules Marey’s 1900-1902 wind tunnels, Victor and Aladar Olgyay’s 1955-1963 thermoheliodon, and David Boswell Reid’s 1844 Convection Experiments. Each case study model operates as a lens for understanding both origins and opportunities offered by making environmental processes, particularly airflow, visible and materially tangible for use as a design tool. The design component of her research entails prototyping three types of environmental models—wind tunnels, water tables, and filling tanks—and honing architectural design insights from this prototyping process. Rather than understanding environmental apparatuses as being distinct from the architectural models they test, conflating the two yields rich insights about designing buildings that are responsive to their fluid surroundings.

Selected Research 

2018 forth. “Lines over Time: Environmental Models as Architectural Design Tools,” Technology | Architecture + Design (TAD) Journal. 

2017 “Sand, Silt, Salt, Water: Entropy as a Lens for Design in Postindustrial Landscapes,” Landscape Research, vol 42, issue 7, pp. 769-781.

2017 “Controlling Climate to Reduce Climate Control: Two Models of Environmental Design in Victor and Aladar Olgyay’s Thermoheliodon”, Conference Presenter. Postcards from the Anthropocene: Unsettling the Geopolitics of Representation, University of Edinburgh

2013 “Thermodynamic Optimism: Three Energy/Material Dialogues,” Edinburgh Architecture Research (EAR), vol 33, pp.57-64

2012 “Fill, Flow, Track: Modeling Energetic Exchanges,” Theory by Design: Architectural Research Made Explicit in the Design Studio. pp.305-312

2011 “Visualizing Thermodynamics: Developing a Generative Design Process,” ESALA Seed Funding, £2000, collaborative design with Herriot Wat collaborators for Land Art Generator Initiative competition, “Fresh Kills Exothermic Landscape”.  

Current PhD students