5 Things We Learned About Diller Scofidio + Renfro From Their 92nd Street Y Talk

5 Things We Learned About Diller Scofidio + Renfro From Their 92nd Street Y Talk

Taking a break from their extraordinarily busy schedules, which include juggling the design and construction of L.A.'s Broad Museum, the new home of the Berkeley Museum of Art, and a bubble-shaped hall at D.C.'s Hirshhorn Museum, Elizabeth Diller, Ricardo Scofidio, and Charles Renfro (better known to the world as architectural juggernaut Diller Scofidio + Renfro), took the time last night to chat at the lecture hall of New York's 92nd Street Y. Here are five things ARTINFO learned about DS+R during the discussion.

THERE IS NO "HIGH LINE EFFECT"

 

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DS+R are the architects responsible for New York's most innovative new park, the High Line. Built on an elevated former train track that runs between buildings Manhattan's west side, it's had a tremendously reinvigorating effect on the area. Copycat proposals are springing up around the world, from Mexico City's Chapultepec Forest walkway to a floating London River Park along theThames, but the architectural firm doesn't foresee them capturing the same effectof the High Line.

Moderator Paul Goldberger called New York's High Line "an extraordinary alignment of the stars," one Renfro doubts could ever be replicated elsewhere. "Everybody thinks that they can put a Bilbao up, y’know, a copy," he said, referring to the oft sought-after "Bilbao effect." "I don't see how these cities could think that just having an elevated train line makes for a success — the kind of success we've seen with the High Line."

THEY DON'T KNOW WHY THE WEST LOVES THEM SO MUCH

The trio has two major California art centers in the works that "couldn't be further apart," said Diller. She described Eli Broad's 144,000 downtown Los Angeles museum, which has just begun construction, an "urban aspiration" that would certainly improve the surrounding Bunker Hill neighborhood, but whether it would make "L.A. into a real city" remains to be seen. She explained that the Berkeley Museum of Art, scheduled to open next year, was particularly challenging because it's a project of "restrictive budget for a great client." 

"The West loves us," said Scofidio. "The West Coast, the west side of New York..."

"We are looking for projects on the East Coast, too," Renfro made sure to add. 

THEY DON'T RECOMMEND ARCHITECTURE SCHOOL…

Unless you're willing to do "a lot of hard work for very little money," said Diller.

THEIR FAVORITE PLACES IN NEW YORK INCLUDE THE INTERIOR OFTHE STATUE OF LIBERTY

When asked what New York architecture the firm recommends for sightseeing out-of-towners, Scofidio named the inside of Lady Liberty. "It's an incredible space," he said. Diller sends visitors to the Turrell Room at MoMA PS1, and Renfro has a peculiar affinity to the retro stylings of the Supreme Court Building. "That's kind of like liking your bell bottoms again," Diller said. 

PETER EISENMAN IS JUST JEALOUS

Citing recent projects for high-profile clients like Columbia Business School and Eli Broad, one audience member asked the architects whether they were becoming "designers of the establishment."

"Working for a millionaire that's turning his art collection over to the public isn't against our sense of ethics," Diller said. "We don't do commercial projects unless there's something really brilliant there." Apparently this isn't the first time they've been called out. After their "Slow House" appeared on the cover of Progressive Architecture in 1991, the venerated high modernist architect Peter Eisenman told them they had sold out. "It’s good to be marginal," he had told Diller, "but don't be on the cover of a magazine where I want to be."