Diller Scofidio + Renfro: Seeing Anew

It seems a match made in heaven.

Who else might write the definitive book on Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) but scholar Edward Dimendberg?

The 90-person architecture firm is known widely for its experimental work that explores the areas surrounding the intersection of architecture, film, media and space.

The result? Wildly popular experiences like Manhattan’s High Line.

Dimendberg is an expert in semiotics, cinema, modernity and architecture.

Luckily for the rest of us, their two worlds merge in his new book, “Diller Scofidio + Renfro: Architecture After Images”

“It was like diving down a rabbit hole in ‘Alice in Wonderland,’” Dimendberg says.  “The more I got into it, the further I fell.”

How, he wonders, could the two people who established their firm in a loft above the Village Voice end up redeveloping Lincoln Center?

The answer lies within the firm’s thoroughly inquisitive, disciplined and investigative process.  At a time when film, media and architecture in modern life are being examined by the likes of Rem Koolhaas, Jean Nouvel and Bernard Tschumi, DS+R is “making contemporary space intelligible, playful, and unpredictable by controlling how and what we can and cannot see,” he writes in his introduction.

“They’re experimental, and interested in scenes, shots and pans – they’re very cinematic, and edited,” he says.  “They’re all about looking.”

The High Line is a prime example.  “It has elements of a promenade, but really it’s reflecting on the relationship between windows and screens,” he says.  “It’s what architecture should be in the 21st century.  It explores the relationship between interiority and exteriority – it inverts them, and flips them inside out.”

The firm has no ideological or pedagogical agenda, and does not seem to seek to encourage anyone to think one way or another.  Rather, it’s intent on encouraging people to become intellectually curious.

“It’s about reflection and the experience of seeing,” he says.  “That’s what ambitious architecture always does.”

And as it does, it raises the bar for the rest of us.

The book is due out on March 20.

For more information, go to http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/D/bo5941113.html

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