Working in NYC | Four explorations in 24 hours
During a run at TED, there was an architect that I’d always been curious about — a woman whose work ranges far beyond the competent; she’s a thinker, a strategist of place, the visionary practitioner of design, and co-founder of the firm Diller Scofidio+Renfro. At the event, after her talk, she was alone, and looking rather bereft of company — shy — and I went to speak with her. Elizabeth Diller.
I was particularly interested in a building that she and her team had designed in Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland, completed in 2002. Probably, to my take, one of the most intriguing designs of the first decade of the 21st century. We talked about it — and other projects — and her perspectives. Design, passion, commitment, focus — supreme attention to the work. The sense of place — and the humans that interact with it, in it.
From Diller’s site, “The Blur Building was built for the Swiss Expo 2002 on Lake Neuchatel. It is an architecture of atmosphere. The lightweight tensegrity structure measures 300 feet wide by 200 feet deep by 75 feet high. The primary building material is indigenous to the site, water. Water is pumped from the lake, filtered, and shot as a fine mist through 31,500 high-pressure mist nozzles. A smart weather system reads the shifting climactic conditions of temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, and processes the data in a central computer that regulates water pressure.”
The captivating design, for me, is about people in place — made.
Surely there are wondrous experiences to be had in environments that are entirely natural, but to the challenges of creating place, this is a remarkable installation.
There are other works, that are fascinating — her efforts in Boston, for example, for the Institute of Contemporary Art (2006.)
Or her team’s work on The Brasserie, a restaurant in Manhattan.
And below, the Eyebeam building proposal, Manhattan — unbuilt.
But this trip is really about The High Line.
And the work that they did there.
According to their site references, “The master plan for The High Line, an elevated railroad spur stretching 1.45 miles along Manhattan’s Westside, is inspired by the melancholic, unruly beauty of the ruin today where nature has reclaimed a once vital piece of urban infrastructure, The team retools this industrial conveyance into a postindustrial instrument of leisure reflection about the very categories of “nature” and “culture” in our time. By changing the rules of engagement between plant life and pedestrians, the strategy of agri-tecture combines organic and building materials into a blend of changing proportions that accommodate the wild, the cultivated, the intimate, and the hyper-social. The park is marked by slowness, distraction and an other-worldliness that preserves the character of The High Line.”
The presumptions of design and the place-making of The High Line are relatively simple, yet extraordinarily complex to engineer, and the delicacy of the detailing of the structured movements along the track of the train trestle is fascinating — sinuous, thread-like, yet disciplined in the sequencing of the event experience.
Project imagery from Diller+Scofidio+Renfro website
The use of the special concrete aggregate, the seaming incisions of the tracking, the thoughtful installations of the plantings and illumination; it’s a remarkable strolling experience. And people are loving it, savoring being in it, playing and lounging, wandering and exploring.
Find your way:
An exploration — details and photographs of The High Line — by me and designer Dawn Clark, AIA LEED:
One end to another, just over a mile. Worth visiting.
Sometimes, in working in a place, the idea of extending that experience — traveling around and in that environment is a challenge that’s well worth the struggle. It’s a necessity. Traveling as much as I do, I find the expansions on exploration sometimes to be of the range of working all day, then wandering into the night — or arising predawn, and heading out for a morning run or walk — extending a business trip by a day merely to see what’s in the neighborhood.
If you’re going to go. Then go. Out there.
Smell the flowers:
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