Diller Scofidio + Renfro has long been at the forefront of design. The interdisciplinary design firm, founded in 1979, first stirred interest with its provocative exhibitions of theoretically based projects that blurred the boundaries between art and architecture. 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.
With the almost simultaneous completion of two large-scale projects in New York City — the renovation of the High Line and revitalization and expansion of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts — Diller Scofidio + Renfro has galvanized the public’s attention. Between 2004 and 2011, the firm, in collaboration with James Corner Field Operations, converted the derelict High Line railroad tracks on the city’s West Side (from Gansevoort to 30th streets) into a sophisticated 1.5 mile elevated urban park.
From early 2003 to 2010, DS+R redesigned Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall and the Juilliard School, built a free-standing, grass-covered pavilion that houses a destination restaurant (the Lincoln) and a public lawn, and inventively modified the public spaces connecting the complex’s existing buildings. As architecture critic Martin Filler states in the film, “Both the High Line and Lincoln Center have had a really euphoric effect on life in New York. So it’s populism of a very high order.”
In this 54-minute documentary, intelligent commentary from the architects is complemented by remarkable cinematography and interviews with New York City planning commissioner Amanda Burden and other civic figures. Critics and theorists Mark Wigley, Anthony Vidler, and Mr. Filler, offer insights into the firm’s history, previous completed projects, and their unique process of reimagining the public identities of two major New York urban spaces.