Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) is an interdisciplinary design studio that integrates architecture, the visual arts, and the performing arts. Founded in 1979, the New York City-based practice established its identity through self-generated, theoretical art installations before reaching international prominence through projects such as the renovation and expansion of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York, and the High Line, an urban park built on an abandoned elevated railway trestle on Manhattan’s west side. Today, DS+R is led by four partners who collaborate on the design of each project with a staff of 100 architects, artists, researchers, and writers. DS+R is currently engaged in numerous projects across the world: the 34-acre Zaryadye Park adjacent to the Kremlin in Moscow; the Museum of Image & Sound on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, and The Juilliard School’s first overseas campus in Tianjin, China.
As DS+R’s first exhibition in Berlin, ’Space On Demand’ presents a rare preview of the studio’s methodology and innerworkings through the close examination of a single project, still under construction: The Shed. Conceived and designed by DS+R, in collaboration with Rockwell Group, and led by Founding Artistic Director and CEO Alex Poots, The Shed will be New York’s first multi-arts center designed to commission, produce, and present all types of performing arts, visual arts, and popular culture. This dynamic snapshot of the project‘s ongoing design process represents the studio’s most adventurous approach to rethinking cultural institutions. ’Space On Demand’ will feature physical artifacts, technical documentation, and ephemera key to realizing this project.
Sited on the west side of Manhattan along the High Line at 30th Street, The Shed comprises an eight-level base structure and a telescoping outer shell. The base building holds two expansive, column-free galleries; a 500-seat black-box theater that can be subdivided into even more intimate spaces; event and rehearsal space; and a creative lab that will be provided free to early-career local artists. The telescoping outer shell can be deployed over the adjoining plaza to create a light-, sound-, and temperature-controlled hall that can serve an infinite variety of artists’ needs and uses, including as a theater seating 1,250 people or a standing audience of up to 3,000 people. Its ceiling acts as a theatrical deck, allowing for rigging across the entire volume of space above performers and audiences, as well as light and sound control. When the shell is nested over the base building, the plaza can be used as outdoor space and for programming. With references to Cedric Price’s unbuilt, ’anti-building’ of the 1960s, the Fun Palace, The Shed is infinitely flexible. It can expand or contract to accommodate the needs of a vast range of performance, visual arts, events and multidisciplinary work. The building can physically change at will to support artists’ visions and enable collaborations across disciplines under one roof.
DS+R founding partner, Elizabeth Diller commented: “The opportunity to design a ground-up building for the arts forced the question, what will art look like in the next 10 years? 20 years, and beyond? The answer was that we simply could not know. All that we could be certain of was that there would always be a need for conditioned space of different heights and sizes, a need for structural loading capacity, and a need for electrical power. The solution was, an architecture of infrastructure.”
DS+R collaborator, David Rockwell of Rockwell Group, added: “We questioned how we could build in flexibility that is liberating and not constraining to the building’s function and would achieve the best possible conditions for the creation of new work. We found a way to create a center for the arts that is as useful for performing artists as it is for visual artists and popular artists.”
Upon completion in 2019, The Shed will further expand DS+R’s interdisciplinary body of cultural work, operating from all sides of the gallery and museum wall. As artists and curators, the studio has completed over four dozen installation works including Blur, a pavilion of fog built for the Swiss Expo on Lake Neuchâtel; ’Liquid Antiquity’ at the Benaki Museum in Athens; ’Off the Cuff’, at Palazzo Litta during Milan Design Week; ’EXIT’ at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, an immersive installation using data visualization on global migration; ’The Art of Scent’ at the Museum of Art & Design, the first exhibition on the history of olfactory art; ’Charles James: Beyond Fashion’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, an account of the couturier using 3D imaging and robotics; and ’Pierre Chareau: Modern Architecture and Design’ at the Jewish Museum using VR. As architects, the studio’s body of cultural work includes the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston and The Broad, a museum in Los Angeles. This year, DS+R completed the first phase of the Museum of Modern Art renovation and expansion in New York. The studio is currently working on ’The Mile-Long Opera’ to be staged on the High Line in New York.