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Diller-Scofidio, architects having their moment

December 11, 2010 |  9:30 am

DillerUntil a few years ago, the architects who won the commission to design Eli Broad’s downtown Los Angeles museum were known for anything but the standard practice of architecture.

Elizabeth Diller and Rick Scofidio, who are married, were more interested in being artists than architects, in running a small practice out of their Lower East Side loft — even allowing the FedEx man to use their bathroom.

They collaborated on theater performances, media shows and museum installations, and, for a long time, were best known for a banana-shaped house that was never built and a temporary pavilion on a Swiss lake that spewed fog.

They once set up 2,400 orange traffic cones for 24 hours in Manhattan’s Columbus Circle to understand driving patterns. They suspended 50 identical suitcases from a museum ceiling to demonstrate how we don’t tour America, we tour previous tours of monuments and hotels. In 1990, they designed a weekend retreat in the Hamptons for a Japanese art collector who wanted an ocean view. The curved house culminated with a picture window facing the water and a television monitor next to it playing a video loop of that view. The house was never built, but the architects’ view-of-the-view was celebrated.

But there were no office towers, libraries or civic centers in their portfolio, and no demanding clients or planning boards editing their vision. Instead, they explored the essence of architecture rather than its practice, and in 1999 they became the first architects to receive a MacArthur “genius” award.

Now that's all changing; to read the full Arts & Books article on the Diller-Scofidio partnership, click here.

-- Geraldine Baum

Photo: Elizabeth Diller, center, Rick Scofidio, left, and Charles Renfro, right, are partners in Diller Scofidio + Renfro architectural firm.

Credit: Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times