Building Bonds for Society | The Plan
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Building Bonds for Society

Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Our lives are increasingly fragmented and filtered through digital media, even as the public realm of our cities is being privatized and sold off to the highest bidders. A few enlightened architects are pushing back, fostering social intercourse and creating stages that all can share. The New York firm of Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) has led the way, turning an abandoned freight track into the High Line, Manhattan’s most popular promenade, and breaking down social barriers at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Over the past year they have infused learning hubs for the arts and medicine with that same exuberance, and are creating a cultural center for Rio de Janeiro that may rival the Pompidou as a people space. Connectivity is the thread that links these four diverse structures, drawing on early experiments and the desire to create a more democratic environment for life, work and play. Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio established their studio in 1979, and were joined by Charles Renfro in 1997. “We were both trained as architects, but neither of us intended to do client-oriented buildings,” says Diller. “When we began to engage in public work, it was from the vantage of art, rethinking the conventions of space in the public realm.” That goal found expression in the Blur, a virtual pavilion of water vapor on Lake Neuchâtel that was the biggest draw of the 2002 Swiss Expo. Soon after, they completed an apartment building in Japan and the boldly cantilevered Institute of Contemporary Art on the Boston waterfront. Their architectural practice began to surge and they now have a bulging portfolio. The Broad Museum in downtown Los Angeles has been drawing crowds since its opening last year. “I love working on complex buildings, achieving a consensus on space and program, but we still make time to do books and independent projects,” says Diller. “Three of the projects in the money-losing division of our studio are an opera for the High Line, an installation...

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