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Surface Mag Interviews Liz Diller on Architecture, Art, and Early "Aha" Moments

Below is an excerpt of the cover story of this month’s Surface magazine: an in-depth interview with Elizabeth Diller, published online for the first time here on ArchDaily.

The 35-year career of Elizabeth Diller, a founding partner of the New York–based architecture studio Diller Scofidio + Renfro, is a study of contrasts: conceptual and pragmatic, temporary and permanent, iconoclastic and institutional. After graduating from Cooper Union in 1979, Diller started her practice mounting temporary installations with her partner and future husband, Ricardo Scofidio, their interests leaning closer to art and theory than conventional buildings and construction. Today the duo—along with Charles Renfro, who became a partner in 2004—is responsible for some of the most important architectural projects in the country. DS+R counts Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art (completed in 2006) and a makeover of New York’s Lincoln Center (finalized in 2012) among its highest-profile works. Especially influential, at least among architects and academics, has been the firm’s unbuilt Slow House (1991), a proposal for a residence on Long Island, New York, renowned for its examination of how we see in a media-saturated world. 

One notices sharp contrasts not just in the firm’s work history but in its public reception as well. Widely lauded for repurposing a dilapidated elevated railway into New York City’s beloved High Line park (the third phase opened in September), DS+R received heavy criticism this year for its involvement in a major expansion proposal for the Museum of Modern Art. The museum’s plans included the demolition of its little-guy neighbor, the American Folk Art Museum; despite efforts to work the idiosyncratic building into the design scheme, Diller’s studio, hired to lead the expansion, ultimately acknowledged that the structure couldn’t be saved.

Surface recently met with Diller at her office in Manhattan to speak about the ensuing controversy, as well as early career experiences that have influenced her firm’s recent commissions for cultural institutions, including the current exhibition “Musings on a Glass Box” at the Cartier Foundation in Paris (through Feb. 25, 2015), a collaboration with composer David Lang and sound designer Jody Elff. Diller, 60, is pensive and surprisingly relaxed for someone whose aides are constantly interrupting her to remind her of meetings she has to attend. She speaks with an erudite inflection befitting her academic credentials and professional accolades (she is, after all, a professor at Princeton and a MacArthur “genius grant” recipient), though she smiles with the ease of an affable neighbor.

Red Bull's New York Offices / INABA

  • Architects: INABA
  • Location: New York, NY, USA
  • Architects in Charge: Jeffrey Inaba, Ostap Rudakevych, Yoichiro Mizuno, Alan Kwan
  • Area: 16800.0 ft2
  • Project Year: 2014
  • Photographs: Greg Irikura , Naho Kubota

© Greg Irikura © Naho Kubota © Greg Irikura © Naho Kubota

Check Out These Images of New York's Skyline in 2018

If New Yorkers thought that construction during Michael Bloomberg's tenure as Mayor was frantic, then what's coming next might be quite a shock: courtesy of CityRealty, these images show the New York skyline in 2018, when many of the city's current projects will be complete. Produced from building models by TJ Quan and Ondel Hylton as a marketing ploy for Jean Nouvel's 53 West 53rd street which recently (finally) began construction, the images include all of Nouvel's illustrious future neighbors: the "Billionaire's Row" including 111 West 57th Street, 220 Central Park South, 225 West 57th Street (Nordstrom Tower) and One57; new Midtown developments such as 432 Park Avenue, 520 Park Avenue425 Park Avenue, One Vanderbilt, 610 Lexington, 15 Penn Plaza, and the Hudson Yards towers; and even the latest financial district towers, 1WTC, 30 Park Place, 125 Greenwich, and 225 Cherry Street.

View Looking West Above Long Island City. Image Courtesy of CityRealty  View over Upper East Side. Background shows supertall towers. Image Courtesy of CityRealty View looking north above Midtwon showing Central Park and supertowers planned allong "Billionaires  Row". Image Courtesy of CityRealty Courtesy of CityRealty

Heatherwick to Construct $170 Million "Pier 55" Park Off Manhattan's Hudson River Shoreline

Billionaire Barry Diller, chairman of IAC/InterActiveCorp and former head of Paramount Pictures and Fox, has commissioned Thomas Heatherwick to design a $170 million “futuristic park” on Manhattan’s lower west side. Replacing the deteriorated Pier 54, the new “Pier55” will be a lush undulating landscape, raised atop 300 mushroom-shaped concrete columns placed 186 feet off of the Hudson River shoreline, that will host outdoor performances, act as a marine sanctuary for striped bass and guard the city against storms. 

Heatherwick will be collaborating with landscape architect Mathews Nielson. Read on to learn more about the project. 

Southern space looking north from Gansevoort Peninsula. Image © Pier55, Inc. and Heatherwick Studio, Renders by Luxigon Conceptual view of Pier 55's rolling landscape. Image © Pier55, Inc. and Heatherwick Studio, Renders by Luxigon Night view. Image © Pier55, Inc. and Heatherwick Studio, Renders by Luxigon Amphitheater looking southwest at the sunset. Image © Pier55, Inc. and Heatherwick Studio, Renders by Luxigon

Video: Snøhetta on Designing the 9/11 Memorial Museum Pavilion

"So in some ways I think that this tragedy gave a sense of purpose to people that was very positive, and we tried to translate that feeling into this building." In this video from the Louisiana Channel, Craig Dykers of Snøhetta describes how his own experience with the events of 9/11 and the positivity of the spirit of people around him helped inspire the design process of the 9/11 Memorial Museum Pavilion.

He speaks of the journey of healing and understanding as central to the design and experience of the building itself. "As you move through these cycles, you realize one day that you are alive, and you that have to present the strength of being alive to those around you, and this building is meant to be a part of that cycle…to allow you to see yourself, at a moment in time."

Watch the video above to learn more about the challenges of designing a memorial museum fully integrated within an essentially nonexistent site. 

State Street Townhouse / Ben Hansen Architect

© Francisc Dzikowski Photography Inc. © Francisc Dzikowski Photography Inc. © Francisc Dzikowski Photography Inc. © Francisc Dzikowski Photography Inc.

Six Teams Studying Uneven Growth to Exhibit Proposals for Expanding Megacities at MoMA

As the culmination of a 14-month initiative to examine new architectural possibilities for rapid growth in six megalopolises - Hong Kong, Istanbul, Lagos, Mumbai, New York, and Rio de Janeiro - the Museum of Modern Art is preparing to open Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities on November 22. The exhibition will present mappings of emergent modes of tactical urbanism from around the globe alongside proposals for a bottom-up approach to urban growth in the highlighted cities by six interdisciplinary teams made up of local practitioners and international architecture and urbanism experts.

Curator Pedro Gadanho, in collaboration with the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts (MAK), states: 

“The exhibition features design scenarios for future developments that simultaneously raise awareness of the prevailing inequalities in specific urban areas and confront the changing roles of architects vis-à-vis ever-increasing urbanization. Each team in the exhibition was asked to consider how emergent forms of tactical urbanism can respond to alterations in the nature of public space, housing, mobility, spatial justice, environmental conditions, and other major issues in near-future urban contexts.” 

A synopsis of each team’s work, after the break.

2015 YAP P.S.1 Shortlist

MoMA P.S.1 has announced five finalists to compete in the 2015 Young Architects Program (YAP). Now in it’s 16th edition, the competition will challenge a group of emerging architects to design a temporary installation within the walls of the P.S.1 courtyard for MoMA’s annual summer “Warm-Up” series.

The 2015 shortlist includes Office for Political Innovation (Andres Jaque; NY), brillhart architecture (Jacob Brillhart; Miami, FL), Erin Besler (LA, CA), The Bittertang Farm (Michael Loverich; NY), Studio Benjamin Dillenburger (Benjamin Dillenburger and Michael Hansmeyer; ONT, Canada). The winners will be announced in early 2015. 

Previous winners include The Living (Hy-Fi), CODA (Party Wall), Interboro Partners (Holding Pattern), Work AC (Public Farm 1), MOS (Afterparty) and SO-IL (Pole Dance).

Two Universities Win NCARB Award for Merging Practice and Education

The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) has awarded Parsons The New School for Design and Clemson University the 2014 NCARB Award to aid the development of innovative programs that merge practice and education. 

Images of SOM's Completed One World Trade Center in New York

The first tenant has moved into the One World Trade Center, making Monday, November 3, the official opening of the (arguably) tallest building in the Western hemisphere 13 years after the tragedy of 9/11. The “extraordinary moment was passed in the most ordinary of ways,” described the New York Times, as employees of Conde Nast entered into the white marble lobby (taken from the same quarry that produced marble for the original twin towers) and headed straight to the elevators to start their work day.

To celebrate its completion, renowned architectural photographers Iwan Baan and James Ewing took it to the sky to capture the One World Trade Center in all its glory. The images, after the break.

AD Classics: Citigroup Center / Hugh Stubbins + William Le Messurier

In a city of skyscrapers of nearly every shape and size, the Citigroup Center on Lexington Avenue is one of New York’s most unique. Resting on four stilts perfectly centered on each side, it cantilevers seventy-two feet over the sidewalk and features a trademark 45-degree sloping crown at its summit. The original structure responsible for these striking features also contained a grave oversight that nearly resulted in structural catastrophe, giving the tower the moniker of “the greatest disaster never told” when the story finally was told in 1995. The incredible tale—now legendary among structural engineers—adds a fascinating back-story to one of the most iconic fixtures of the Manhattan skyline.

© Flickr user Steven Severing-Haus © Flickr user Paulkhor © Flickr user Jeff Stvan © Flickr user Axel Drainville

The Interface of the Afterlife: Examining Cemeteries and Mausoleums in the 21st Century

The relationship between immortality and architecture is ancient one. Writing in The New Yorker, Alexandra Lange discusses the past and future of cemetery design in relation to a new exhibition on display in New York. Featuring a selection of 1300 individual mausoleum designs stored in Columbia University's archives, Lange notes how "patrons weren’t picky about originality. In the late nineteenth century, memorial companies might just bring back a shipment of angels from Carrara to be distributed among future clients." These "rural estates in miniature" eventually gave way to more contemporary designs which dabbled in Realism and Cubism. What will the people of today house their remains in? For Lange, "the design we take personal pleasure from everyday is now less likely to be architecture and more likely to be an interface." Read the article in full here.

Drawing and Reinventing Landscape: A Conversation with Diana Balmori and Barry Bergdoll

On Wednesday, November 5, Diana Balmori will visit the Strand to chat about Drawing and Reinventing Landscape with the MoMA's architecture curator, Barry Bergdoll. Diana's book examines digital, analog and hybrid methods of representing landscape and places the contemporary landscape architecture within its fascinating historical context. This exclusive Strand chat will investigate crucial aspects of the design process. Join as these two experts discuss this important design topic at a moment of increasing global environmental change. More information here

Michael Graves School of Architecture to Open in 2015

Kean University has announced plans to open a new architecture school based on the design philosophy of Michael Graves. Following the footsteps of a man who laments the “loss of drawing,” the new Michael Graves School of Architecture will prioritize hand drawings as a key to design process. 

“In our technologically savvy world, to this day, Michael Graves’ philosophy is to draw by hand first so that the students see, ‘feel’ and experience the new building spatially. Then, only after the drawing is complete will the students transfer the design to a computer so that the computer becomes an execution tool, not an ideation tool,” describes acting dean and former student of Graves, David Mohney.

Santiago Calatrava Breaks Ground on Church at 9/11 Memorial Site

Construction has begun on Santiago Calatrava’s Saint Nicholas National Shrine on the World Trade Center site in New York. A “tiny jewel” for lower Manhattan, as referred by Calatrava, the white Vermont marble shrine will be based around a translucent central Cupola that illuminates from within. 

More images and an updated construction image of Calatrava's neighboring transportation hub, after the break.

The Principals Install Sound Reactive, Silver-Coated "Quilt" at Neuehouse

Commissioned by Sonos to create a sound reactive installation in collaboration with the musician Dev Hynes (aka Blood Orange), The Principals created a 16-foot-tall canopy, 8-feet-wide by 36-feet-long covering the performance and grand stand seating area of the private workspace collective Neuehouse. Inspired by the work of Arthur Rimbaud, The Principals chose the name Ancient Chaos, a phrase from his poem Matinée d'Ivresse which speaks to a basic force of wonder within all of us at the hidden patterns of nature. The installation, both a sonic composition and a physical structure, creates sounds that verge on the architectural and architecture that verges on the fluid.  

More information and a video of the installation in motion, after the break.  

Woods Bagot's Alternative Penn Station Solution Would Keep Madison Square Garden

Invited by the Municipal Arts Society (MAS) and the Regional Plan Association (RPA), Woods Bagot has created an alternative design for the future of New York's  Penn Station which would allow Madison Square Garden to remain in its current location above the station's entrance. The design, produced as part of MAS and RPA's report into the future of the station, the design was unveiled yesterday at Penn 2023: Where will the Garden Go?, the first session of the Municipal Arts Society's 2014 Summit for New York City, which discussed the possible options for the site at the end of Madison Square Garden's current 10-year permit.

Though the report by MAS and RPA favors the idea of moving Madison Square Garden - identifying Farley Post Office’s Western Annex and the Morgan Postal Facility and Annex as potential new sites - it also says that "there needs to be a Plan B... In the event a deal between the state, city, railroads and Madison Square Garden does not get done in the next eight years, there needs to be a plan for improving Penn Station and the surrounding district with the Garden still in place." This is where Woods Bagot's designs come in.

Read on after the break for more on Woods Bagot's proposal

ODA Aims to Bring “Qualities of Private House” to Multi-Family Housing in Brooklyn

ODA Architecture has shared with us “510 Driggs,” a multi-family residential project that aims to provide residents with the “qualities of a private house” within Brooklyn’s dense urban landscape. Each of the six-story building’s 100 units will be equipped with a large, functional outdoor space and at least two exposures to maximize light and air.