Azure - - CONTENTS - AS TOLD TO _Leo Gull­bring,

Five things we learned from Liz Diller

As a prin­ci­pal of Diller Scofidio + Ren­fro, the in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary New York stu­dio she co-founded with Ricardo Scofidio in 1981, Liz Diller has re­al­ized her pro­gres­sive ideas about space mak­ing through many of her home city’s most iconic projects, from the High Line and the re­vamp­ing of Lin­coln Cen­ter’s pub­lic ar­eas to one of next year’s most an­tic­i­pated un­veil­ings: the Shed, a 19,000-square-me­tre art and per­for­mance struc­ture cre­ated in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Rock­well Group. The mam­moth new build­ing, on Man­hat­tan’s west side, boasts a tele­scop­ing outer shell that dou­bles its foot­print as needed. Re­cently, Diller sat down to dis­cuss the chal­lenges of work­ing on land­mark projects in an ever-chang­ing me­trop­o­lis, of­fer­ing a few key lessons in the process. _1 Take full ad­van­tage of en­light­ened mu­nic­i­pal lead­ers. Un­der Mayor Gi­u­liani there was no ur­ban think­ing; it was fairly re­pres­sive, and the High Line was about to be de­mol­ished. When Michael Bloomberg took over, things re­ally changed. Bloomberg em­ployed in­ter­est­ing peo­ple as cul­tural and plan­ning com­mis­sion­ers, and he was very open to new ideas, and new ini­tia­tives such as the High Line. He was of­ten ac­cused of giv­ing ev­ery­thing away to de­vel­op­ers, but he had a real in­ter­est in the cul­ture around him as well as an en­tre­pre­neur­ial streak. _2 Be flex­i­ble, as city hall cul­tures change. Bill de Bla­sio, the cur­rent mayor, has his own so­cial agenda, but he doesn’t re­ally un­der­stand the role of ar­chi­tec­ture and pub­lic space. [Last Septem­ber] was the first time he had ever set foot on the High Line. That’s mind-blow­ing! _3 Never doubt the heal­ing power of ar­chi­tec­ture. What emerged af­ter 9/11 was fear and vul­ner­a­bil­ity, but also a sense of civic pride. And some of our big­gest projects – such as the High Line – re­flected that. When they opened, they were re­ceived al­most like gifts. No one was ex­pect­ing them, so the pub­lic just em­braced them with great sen­ti­ment. If 9/11 hadn’t hap­pened, I doubt that these projects would have hap­pened. _4 Gen­tri­fi­ca­tion isn’t al­ways a bad thing. Gen­tri­fi­ca­tion is part of New York City, part of our DNA. And a lot of peo­ple don’t un­der­stand its full mean­ing from an ur­ban­is­tic stand­point, its pos­i­tive as­pects. But it does need to be con­trolled. The Shed, frankly, is an at­tempt to re­assert New York City’s po­si­tion as a place for artists, to push ways for artists to work to­gether, in pub­lic, in a dif­fer­ent kind of for­mat. It’s not about mak­ing an­other mu­seum. _5 Think big pic­ture and (very) long term. What will cul­ture look like in 10 or 20 years’ time? We have no idea! The best thing that we as ar­chi­tects can do is make an in­fra­struc­ture for art. The Shed will chal­lenge cu­ra­tors, artists and the pub­lic with new pos­si­bil­i­ties. And since space is the most valu­able com­mod­ity we have, it will pre­serve a part of the city for cul­ture in the fu­ture.

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