ultimate project for [Elizabeth] Diller and [Ricardo] Scofidio would be a structure
that called into question the nature of architecture, the way Duchamp's 'Fountain,'
a porcelain urinal that the artist named, turned upside down and signed, questioned
the nature of art. If you're interested in games of perception, the power of
wordplay and the discovery of unexpected beauty in the prosaic, Duchamp is your man....|
|iller and Scofidio
are receiving a major museum retrospective, opening March 1, at the
moment they are preparing to break ground on their first major building,
the $37 million Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. Their influence,
however, overshadows their list of completed commissions.
'In experimental architecture and design, they are the only ones who made as the
core of their work the question "What do we mean by architecture?"'
says Aaron Betsky, director of the Netherlands Architecture Institute
and curator of the Whitney show along with K. Michael Hays,
the museum's adjunct curator of architecture.|
quickest way of explaining how, within the profession, Diller + Scofidio
became a catch phrase is to describe its iconic project, the 'Slow House.'
A weekend retreat on the Long Island waterfront, it was designed in 1989
for a Japanese art investor. 'Our client came to us and said he wanted a house with a view,'
Diller recalls. That request provoked them to explore the very notion of a view --
for instance, the evolution of the picture window and the terminology in real-estate ads.
'Why is architecture a technology that creates a view?' Diller recounts.
'Because it mediates it with a window frame.' The couple argued that the picture
window represents a more advanced technology than the video display --
'because it strips away the hardware that you have on a TV monitor and leaves only the
|ut of this
research emerged a design that, depending on where you are coming from,
is either dazzling or lunatic. Although ''Slow House'' does include certain necessities
(like a kitchen and guest bedrooms), it is essentially a retreat with a view.
The design has a clarity that architectural lingo, including the discourse of Diller + Scofidio,
usually lacks. Knowing that the client would arrive at his weekend hideaway after an automobile
trip (with its own windshield-framed view), the architects extended the journey with a
long driveway up to a narrow building facade that was just a doorway.
The house curved like a banana; once you were inside, the shape prevented
you at first from seeing the window in the back. When you finally got to the
window-framed view, it was partly obstructed by a video monitor, displaying the
same vista. In a revelation worthy of Duchamp, you realized that while the sea
has always been there, only man can make a view.|
design won an award from the magazine Progressive Architecture in 1991 and remains
Diller + Scofidio's most influential single work. 'You walked by students' desks,
and every one had drawn this banana shape,' Hays, the Whitney curator, recalls.
The house itself, however, was never built. Soon after the foundation was dug,
the art market crashed, and the financially stricken client pulled the plug.
'It was absolutely heartbreaking,' Diller says.|
|--Arthur Lubow, "Architects, in Theory", NYT Sunday Magazine,