What the Architectural Avant-Garde Learned from Film: The Case of Diller Scofidio + Renfro
New York architects Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio, today best known as co-designers of the New York High Line park, began their practice in the 1970s and have often noted the impact of film and video on their investigation of vision, domesticity, surveillance, and public space. Artists such as Vito Acconci and Dan Graham, filmmakers such as Atom Egoyan and Alfred Hitchcock, and theorists such as Paul Virilio and Walter Benjamin have been as important to their development as other architects. More than most designers of buildings, Diller, Scofidio, and their partner Charles Renfro have investigated the analogies between cinematic forms, particularly montage and the tracking shot, and architectural elements such as facades, windows, and corridors. They have created numerous short videos, scripted elaborate scenarios, shot hundreds of hours on a sound stage, and designed a moving screen. As moving image technology, cultural sensibilities, and the forms of buildings and cities have changed, the work of these architects has evolved as well. If it never has adopted a single style, it nonetheless retains a characteristic irony, wit, and playfulness. The lecture will explore some of the key moments of encounter between film and architecture in the work of Diller Scofidio + Renfro. It will focus on the saga of their unrealized project Facsimile and suggest how its critique of liveness, spectacle, and recording develops a sophisticated theory of architecture in the age of media culture. Concluding with a discussion of their recent museums and public space projects, Dimendberg claims that the work of the architects employs many of the forms of public address associated with cinema and investigates them by architectural means.
Ed Dimendberg is a professor for Film & Media Studies at the University of California, Irvine. Among his publications are Film Noir and the Spaces of Modernity and Diller Scofidio + Renfro: Architecture After Images. He is coordinator of the FlashPoints book series of the University of California Press/Northwestern University Press and a member of the editorial boards of the journals October and Modernism and Modernity. He has received numerous awards for his work including a fellowship at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, a research grant from the Graham Foundation, and a Daimler Fellowship at the American Academy in Berlin. As principal of Dimendberg Consulting LLC he helps authors, academic administrators, and graduate students in his consulting practice.