Barnard Medal of Distinction Citation for Elizabeth Diller presented by Shivina Harjani '13 at Commencement 2013.
Elizabeth Diller. Designer and visionary. As founding principal of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, you defy the generic, reimagining conventional bounds of material, space, and time.
Being walled in has never been your style. Not from your early days in Poland or as a student at Cooper Union. Not in partnership with husband Ricardo Scofidio or later when Charles Renfro joined the team. For 34 years, your self-proclaimed “firm of misfits” has altered the landscape, close to home and far afield, upending our view of just about everything.
A light sock chandelier, a meat dress, a suitcase study. Installations and tech performances, a plywood house and a masterplan. We love that, like us, you are still a student, and research is still the key to your work. And we anticipate your next provocative twist and subversive turn in projects underway: Rio’s Museum of Image & Sound and The Broad in Los Angeles, Columbia’s Medical Center, The Hirshhorn expansion, and the Culture Shed in Hudson Yards.
With Lincoln Center’s redesign, you dared to take a 50-year old citadel and reduce the testosterone, opening up barriers, eroding the edges, and reviving the public space. And again for New York City, New Yorkers, and the rest of the world that comes our way, you transformed an industrial ruin into a mile and a half-long urban park, a walk among the weeds. The High Line, lifting us above the frenetic pace of the streets below.
You once said, “I wanted my thing to be my thing,” and, for that, both you and the firm have been many times awarded, heralded as the most innovative and unorthodox, the most culturally significant. The first architects to win a MacArthur genius grant, the first, perhaps, to use an Olivetti keyboard as inspiration, to make a building out of fog, to inflate a bubble within an iconic museum on our Nation’s Mall.
How fitting, Professor Diller, that a student of architecture, standing in this 1932 deco showplace, is given the honor of honoring you with the 2013 Barnard Medal of Distinction. I speak for my classmates, my colleagues in architecture, and all great invention yet to come. Thank you for pushing us by your own example to be our most creative, surprising, and singular selves.