Diller Scofidio + Renfro

diller-scofidio-renfro.jpgCharles Renfro, Ricardo Scofidio and Elizabeth Diller. Photo by Abelardo Morrell

By Jakob Harry Hybel

In the world of unorthodox artist-architects, few have made such an impact as New York City-based design studio Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Experimental, yet accessible and packed with social commentary, their wide-ranging, interdisciplinary work seek to blur the lines between architecture and the visual and the performing arts.

Founded in 1979 by Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio, their early work tended more towards art than architecture, earning them a reputation as avant-garde theater and installation artists. Then, a decade into their joint practice, they received a decisive commission, a weekend retreat on the Long Island waterfront for a Japanese art investor. Despite its simple program - as well as the fact that it was never actually realized - the project seemed to catapult the company's profile from obscurity to fame almost overnight. It also encased the strict orchestration of space, that the architects would continue exploring in different shapes and forms for decades to come.

Although the firm have often displayed an apparently insatiable enthusiasm for new technologies, it is, however, often paired with a great deal of scepticism. Thus, in many of their projects, they have examined how man-made environments affect human behavior - perhaps most clearly articulated in the Seagram Building Brasserie , which they redesigned in 2000. Here, one monitor was placed in the windowless entrance vestibule to display the street scene outside and a row of 15 monitors over the bar to record in freeze-frame each arrival.

Diller and Scofidio have always asserted the artist's prerogative of dictating the program. Geometry never seemed to interest them as much as inquiring into and challenging the program, they are presented with. The Blur Building, built over Lake Neuchatel for Swiss Expo '02 serves as a fitting example: a steel structure studded with thousands of nozzles generating walls of mist, it was an immaterial building - a spectacle without substance.

In 2004, the husband-and-wife duo of Diller and Scofidio were joined by Charles Renfro as a partner, and they have not been short on commissions since then. While still making controversial projects (such as the Hirshhorn Museum expansion, a 145 foot tall inflatable meeting hall known as "The Bubble"), the firm's usual polemical approach was remarkably toned-down in their recent, highly successful venture into city planning, the High Line project in New York City. With simple yet considerate means, they have transformed 1.5 miles of previously derelict high-line railroad tracks in Chelsea on New York City's Lower West Side into a sophisticated elevated urban park to almost universal acclaim.

In 1999, Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio, the firm's founding principals, were awarded the prestigious "genius grant" by the MacArthur Foundation, in recognition of their "commitment to integrating architecture with issues of contemporary culture". In addition, DS+R are fellows of the Royal Institute of British Architects and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and they have received, among many notable awards, the AIA Medal of Honor, the National Design Award from the Smithsonian and the AIA President's Award.

Visit the DS+R website here.

August 22, 2016 /

The Vagelos Education Center
Diller Scofidio + Renfro
New York, NY, USA

The 14-story glass tower incorporates technologically advanced classrooms, collaboration spaces, and a modern simulation center to reflect how medicine is taught, learned, and practiced in the 21st century.

January 28, 2016 /

UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Berkeley, California, USA

UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) opens its new building to the public on Sunday, January 31, 2016

August 31, 2015 /

The Broad
Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Los Angeles, California, USA

The Broad, the latest addition to downtown LA's architecture scene, is located next to the Walt Disney Concert Hall and across the street from the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Quadrant House by Diller + Scofidio + Renfro in Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Image courtesy Diller + Scofidio
September 22, 2003 /

Quadrant House
Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Phoenix, Arizona, USA

The Quadrant House is conceived in direct response to its site, a small plateau on the side of Camelback Mountain in Phoenix. From this vantage point the house is able to engage two contrasting aspects of the landscape; the flat city grid below and the immense rugged mass of Camelback above.

ICA Boston by Diller + Scofidio + Renfro in Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Photo: Iwan Baan
November 25, 2002 /

ICA Boston
Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Boston, Massachusetts, USA

The new ICA waterfront museum ha tripled the ICA's exhibition space and provided both a world class exhibition space and a vibrant center for public performances, educational activities and waterfront access.

The Eyebeam by Diller + Scofidio + Renfro in New York, USA
Image courtesy Diller + Scofidio + Renfro
April 08, 2002 /

Diller Scofidio + Renfro
New York, New York, USA

The Eyebeam facility in Chelsea will be the city's first institution dedicated exclusively to new media art and the largest institution of its kind in the United States.

Blur Building in Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland by Diller + Scofidio + Renfro
Photo courtesy Diller & Scofidio
November 23, 2001 /

Blur Building
Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland

The Blur Building is a media pavilion for Swiss EXPO 2002 at the base of Lake Neuchatel in Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland.

July 29, 2001 /

The Brasserie
Diller Scofidio + Renfro
New York, New York, USA

After a fire ravaged Philip Johnson's Brasserie in 1995 the owners selected Diller + Scofidio to redesign the space.

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