Architecture by Women: Elizabeth Diller
The Broad is characterised by Diller's honeycomb outer shell that provides filtered light to view the art inside
“Rather than trying to kick the establishment walls down,” the American architect Elizabeth Diller is quoted as saying in our new book, Breaking Ground: Architecture by Women, “we’re walking through the front door.”
It’s an apt, architectural metaphor for a practitioner who has gone from creating avant-garde, arty projects - sometimes at the margins of architecture - through to producing some of the most prominent new works in the United States.
“Diller co-founded the New York-based practice of Diller Scofidio + Renfro in 1981,” explains Breaking Ground. “Her work spans the fields of architecture, urban design, installation art, multimedia performance and publications, with an emphasis on cultural and civic projects.”
Some of these, such as the Blur Building, a 2002 temporary pavilion shrouded in an artificial, watery cloud on Lake Neuchâtel in Switzerland, have limited real-world applications. However, her practice’s more recent work, The Broad (above), a contemporary art museum in Los Angeles, opened in 2015, and built to house and exhibit philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad’s collection, demonstrates the surprising practicality of Diller’s high-minded work.
The brief for The Broad required architects to design both a storage facility for this sizable art collection, and a display space. Diller dubbed her winning solution “the veil and the vault.” The vault, a central, opaque structure serves as storage, as well as a base for the main exhibition area, which rests on top, and is surrounded by the veil, a honeycomb-like, white outer shell that spans across the block-long building and provides filtered natural daylight.
It’s a beautiful and surprisingly simple design, and proof that, if you want bold new works, you’ve sometimes got to open the door and let the avant-garde in. For more on Diller and her fellow female architects order a copy of Breaking Ground: Architecture by Women here. The book is a pioneering visual manifesto of more than 200 incredible buildings designed by women all over the world. Featuring twentieth-century icons such as Julia Morgan, Eileen Gray and Lina Bo Bardi, and the best contemporary talent, from Kazuyo Sejima to Elizabeth Diller and Grafton Architects, this book is, above all else, a ground-breaking celebration of extraordinary architecture.
For a more in-depth exploration of one of her most successful projects, order a copy of The High Line here.