In a must-read interview with Christopher Hawthorne of the Los Angeles Times, Liz Diller defends her firm, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and their design of the MoMA expansion.
Hawthorne asks some great, insightful questions: from whether or not architecture should be considered ephemeral to whether or not idiosyncratic architecture is more vulnerable to change. Diller responds with some fascinating points, claiming that if DS+R's ICA museum in Boston faced demolition, she'd understand because of the possibility that "at a certain point [a building] takes on another identity." But perhaps the most poignant response is the one that she gives regarding the maelstrom of negative criticism surrounding the demolition of the Folk Art Museum, saying, "We would be on the same side if we didn’t know all the details that we know." To learn more about those "details," read on for excerpts from the interview...
On DS + R's "conflict of interest"
"When we stepped into this, we stepped into harm’s way, in a sense, to take this on. And we only agreed to take the commission if we were able to really work hard on this question [of the Folk Art building’s fate] and figure out what was possible. MoMA gave us their word that if we had come to a decision to save the building and renovate -- even if it were more expensive -- they would accept our decision. That was the pact, basically, for our involvement. We weren’t hired just to do one discrete thing, to make a judgment about what to do with the Folk Art building. We were hired to help MoMA with an expansion. [...]We tried very hard to make it work, to use the [Folk Art] space, to make the circulation work, to make the logistics work. And when that became so difficult -- when it passed the threshold of losing its identity -- we proposed a different approach."
On the ephemerality of architecture
"When we make things, we can’t control the way they’re used. We design, we choreograph, we imagine how the public will use it -- and then things change. You do the best you can in the present -- and in the near future that you can imagine. You try to future-proof the design. And if you design something in an idiosyncratic way, so that there’s no other way to use it, you’ve made yourself vulnerable."
Onidiosyncrasy vs. program
"We don’t imagine that we are building for history. We imagine that we’re building for the occupants. We try to make buildings last long and be resilient, but also be not so idiosyncratic that they can’t change. I think the reason this [Folk Art] building was very difficult to transform into something else was its degree of idiosyncrasy. If we were to eliminate a lot of those idiosyncrasies, we could use it. But at a certain point it takes on another identity. The very people who are so emotional about the loss would be seeing a very, very compromised building, just to make it work."
"I don’t want to cast judgment on others. But art changes and needs change. And we feel that you should try to make space that -- without being neutral or reductive -- gives artists and curators a chance to try different kinds of things. There are plenty of other places in a museum to be expressive or idiosyncratic as architects. Galleries are really not the place to do that."
On releasing the early renderings of the expansion
"Should we have published these images? I don’t know. They’re intended to be sketches about what could be. The takeaway from the sketches is connectivity to the street. It’s something that’s really important to us. It’s something we talked about right from the beginning, on our first interview day with MoMA: that the art now is half a mile away from the entrance. [...]There’s a lot of work to be done. It’s not finished. What we’re doing is sharing a progress report. The only thing that was tied to a six-month time frame was the fate of the Folk Art building. So there were a couple of publishable images related to that last week. But we’re working on a lot more."
Read the full interview at LA Times