Without having to leave the firm’s office on the eighteenth floor of Manhattan’s old Starrett-Lehigh Building, employees at Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) have front-row views of five of the studio’s projects. They can look down at the High Line, the project that helped win the practice global attention, gaze over at The Shed, the brand-new arts space at Hudson Yards, or look farther north to Lincoln Center, which DS+R transformed into an inclusive public space.
“Being so close to our work was definitely unintentional when we moved into this office in 2006,” said principal Charles Renfro. At the time, the firm had just wrapped up construction on the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, design work had begun on the High Line, and the practice was still mainly known for experimental installations and interiors, like the former Brasserie Restaurant in the Seagram Building. But now, just 13 years later, DS+R has 24 active projects around the world, including the Hungarian Museum of Transport in Budapest, and the expansion of New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). With its planned completion this fall, MoMA will mark the firm’s ninth built project in New York City, most of which only broke ground in the last decade.
While DS+R’s work, no matter the typology, has always tried to activate public space, Renfro said finding projects that also address issues of inequity, housing, and climate change are top of mind now. “It’s imperative for architects, who have a cultural position that’s respected and are given so much opportunity, to take their knowledge, experience, and influence and share that with organizations and people that are less likely to get it naturally,” he said. “It’s important that our design thinking is put to use in the public realm. We want to better people’s lives.”
The Shed & 15 Hudson Yards
New York’s newest destination for the performing and visual arts, The Shed, designed with Rockwell Group, is a transformative piece of infrastructure spanning eight levels housing galleries, a theater, rehearsal space, creative lab, and upper-floor event space with natural light. Jutting out from the base of DS+R and Rockwell Group’s 910-foot-tall 15 Hudson Yards, the development’s first residential skyscraper, the city-backed cultural space boasts a telescoping outer shell covered in cloudy ETFE panels.
High Line (and The Spur)
Completed: Phase 1, 2009; Phase 2, 2011; Phase 3, 2014
Together with James Corner Field Operations and Piet Oudolf, DS+R designed the 1.5-mile-long elevated park for Manhattan’s West Side and created a bespoke paving system using precast concrete planks that allows plants to grow through its cracks. The “pathless landscape” has propelled a global rails-to-trails movement as well as throngs of high-end development along the park. Most recently, The Spur, the last section, which connects to the adjacent Hudson Yards megadevelopment, opened to the public.
Completed 2009, 2010
The iconic Lincoln Center campus was dramatically revitalized in 2010 when DS+R completed a 70,000-square-foot redesign of its public spaces. In an effort to turn the exclusive arts and culture hub practically inside out, the team connected and activated the on-site plazas and introduced a new central spine from 65th Street to Columbus Avenue. The project also included a renovation of the Juilliard School, a new Alice Tully Hall, an expansion of the School of American Ballet studios, and the addition of the Hypar Pavilion and Lincoln Ristorante.
Opening October 21, 2019
DS+R will give the 53rd Street entrance of the midtown museum a facelift and add 40,000 square feet of new gallery space to its building. The project, a collaboration with Gensler, has been unveiled in phases and also includes the rehab and extension of the historic Bauhaus staircase to the upper-floor galleries, and the addition of a new, first-floor lounge that faces the sculpture garden. Once finished, the design overhaul will allow MoMA to enhance its experimental, performing, and visual arts offerings, and should connect it more seamlessly with the public.