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How Diversity in Architectural Styles Lends Vibrancy to Communities

At Optima®, we’re passionate about design and architecture, not just as forms of artistic expression but as vital elements that contribute to the vibrancy of communities. Across the places where we build, our “forever modern” design philosophy enhances our neighborhoods with unique character, playing a critical role in enhancing the architectural mix, creating a rich tapestry for people to enjoy today…and tomorrow.

A Melting Pot of Architectural Styles

Architecture is like a visual language, telling the story of a place through its buildings. From the ornate flourishes of Art Deco to the sleek lines of Modernism, each style reflects the cultural, historical, and technological zeitgeist of its era. When these different styles coexist in a community, they create a dynamic and visually engaging environment.

Take, for instance, a walk through a city where every corner reveals a different architectural era. The Gothic revival church with its pointed arches and elaborate stonework stands in contrast to the glass and steel of a contemporary skyscraper. This juxtaposition isn’t just about the old meeting the new; it’s a dialogue between different times and ideas, a landscape that tells the story of change and continuity.

View-of-Optima-Signature®-from-Chicago-River
View of Optima Signature® from Chicago River

Optima’s “Forever Modern” Contribution

At Optima, our approach is grounded in the belief that modernism isn’t a static style but an evolving language that responds to current trends, technologies, and lifestyles. By integrating the latest materials and design innovations, our buildings add a layer of contemporary elegance to the architectural conversation within communities.

Our designs, characterized by clean lines, open spaces, and a harmonious blend with the surrounding environment, offer a fresh perspective that complements the existing architectural diversity. For example, the sleek silhouette of an Optima building can highlight the ornate details of a neighboring Victorian building in downtown Wilmette, making both styles stand out.

Creating Dynamic and Interesting Communities

The beauty of diverse architectural styles lies in their ability to create vibrant, interesting, and dynamic communities. This diversity is partly visual, but it also reflects the varied experiences, histories, and values of the people who inhabit these spaces. It fosters a sense of place, where residents and visitors can feel a connection to both the past and the future.

Our commitment to modern design at Optima doesn’t exist in isolation. It’s part of a broader architectural narrative, where different styles coalesce to create a community that’s dynamic, visually engaging, and rich with stories. As architects and designers, we relish the opportunity to contribute to these narratives, because it’s in these spaces that communities truly come alive, pulsating with energy and beauty.

Women in Architecture: Itsuko Hasegawa

As part of our ongoing “Women in Architecture” series, we’re celebrating the incredible work of Itsuko Hasegawa, a trailblazer in the worlds of design and architecture. Hasegawa’s unique blend of traditional Japanese elements and modern design techniques has established her as a leading figure in the architectural realm, inspiring us with her innovative and thoughtful creations.

The Life of Itsuko Hasegawa
Born in 1941 in Yaizu, Japan, Itsuko Hasegawa was raised in a post-war era brimming with opportunities for growth and innovation. Hasegawa’s early life was marked by an exposure to education, a privilege that paved the way for her future achievements. After graduating from Kanto Gakuin University in 1964, she further honed her skills at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. It was during this period that Hasegawa’s architectural philosophy began to take shape, influenced by both modern advancements and the rich tapestry of traditional Japanese design.

A pivotal moment in Hasegawa’s early career was her time working with the renowned architect Kiyonori Kikutake, a leading figure in the Metabolist Movement. This experience significantly impacted her design approach, blending modernist techniques with an inherent appreciation for natural and cultural harmony.

Itsuko Hasegawa sofa
A sofa designed by Itsuko Hasegawa held in the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris, Photo from Wikipedia

Notable Works and Achievements
In 1979, Hasegawa established her own firm, Itsuko Hasegawa Atelier, marking the beginning of a series of groundbreaking projects that would define her career. Her work is characterized by a deep sensitivity to the environment and a unique understanding of space.

Shonandai Cultural Centre in Fujisaw
Shonandai Cultural Centre, Itsuko Hasegawa Atelier, 1987, Photo from Wikipedia

One of Hasegawa’s most acclaimed projects is the Shonandai Cultural Centre in Fujisawa.

Built in 1987, this cultural hub is a testament to her ability to create dynamic and fluid spaces that resonate with the community. The build features a mixture of various forms, including two domed structures and a scattering of hut-like forms that resemble flowers blooming and defy traditional architectural arrangement.

Another significant work is the Sumida Culture Factory in Tokyo, a project that underscores her commitment to functional and engaging public spaces. Built in 1994, the complex acts as another example of Hasegawa’s creation of a landscape. The factory features various interconnected design elements, including a grand dome and two defining catenary roofs.

Sumida Culture Factory
The Sumida Culture Factory, Tokyo, Itsuko Hasegawa Atelier, 1994, Photo from Google Maps

Her contribution to architecture has been recognized with several awards, including the Architectural Institute of Japan’s Design Prize for the Brizan Hall, the Japan Cultural Design Award, the Japan Art Academy Award and the prestigious Royal Academy of Art’s Architecture Prize.

Hasegawa’s influence extends beyond her architectural projects. Her roles as a professor and lecturer in various international institutions have allowed her to impact the next generation of architects, advocating for greater diversity and creativity in the field.

Itsuko Hasegawa’s journey is not just about building structures; it’s about building dreams and inspiring change. Hasegawa’s legacy is a powerful reminder of how architecture can transcend mere buildings to become a medium for cultural expression and community engagement.

A Brief History of the Streamline Moderne Movement

At Optima, we have a deep appreciation for architectural movements that have shaped our surroundings. Today, we’re taking a closer look at Streamline Moderne, an influential style born from the Art Deco movement, celebrated for its embodiment of speed, efficiency, and the modern era.

Origins of Streamline Moderne

Emerging in the 1930s, Streamline Moderne was a testament to the rapidly evolving technological landscape of the time. Influenced by aerodynamic design and born from the advancements in transportation and manufacturing, the movement represented a shift from the ornamental flourishes of Art Deco to a sleeker, more functional aesthetic. It mirrored the streamlined shapes of airplanes, ships, and automobiles, encapsulating the era’s romance with speed and progress.

Los Angeles’ Pan-Pacific Auditorium, Plummer, Wurdeman and Becket, 1935, Photo from Floyd B. Bariscale
Los Angeles’ Pan-Pacific Auditorium, Plummer, Wurdeman and Becket, 1935, Photo from Floyd B. Bariscale

Architects and designers, inspired by the sleek, aerodynamic lines of the modern machine age, began incorporating these elements into buildings, household appliances, and even consumer products. This shift marked a distinct move towards simplicity and efficiency, a response to the economic constraints of the Great Depression.

Streamline Moderne in Architecture

The Streamline Moderne movement left a profound impact with several notable examples still celebrated today. Among these, the Pan-Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles stands out with its sweeping, streamlined façade and stylized pylons, epitomizing the movement’s love for fluidity and motion.

The slew of Streamline Moderne hotels living on Miami’s Ocean Drive, Photo from State Archives of Florida

Another classic example is the Coca-Cola Building in Los Angeles. Its curved corners, elongated horizontal lines, and nautical elements like porthole windows perfectly illustrate Streamline Moderne’s aesthetic principles. These structures not only embodied the technological advancement of the era but also represented a desire for a design that was both functional and visually appealing.

In Miami, the Streamline Moderne movement found particularly fertile ground, with Ocean Drive hotels showcasing the style’s quintessential features. The smooth curves, chrome accents, and pastel colors of these buildings have become synonymous with Miami’s diverse architectural identity, drawing visitors and architecture enthusiasts from around the world.

Today, these structures stand as elegant reminders of an era captivated by the future. In Streamline Moderne, we find a celebration of simplicity, functionality, and beauty – principles that resonate with our approach at Optima. Streamline Moderne is a testament to design’s power in shaping not just buildings, but the character of entire cities and the imagination of generations to come.

Women in Architecture: Sigrid Lorenzen Rupp

In the world of modern architecture, where innovation and sustainability intersect, the legacy of Sigrid Lorenzen Rupp shines brightly. At Optima®, where we celebrate trailblazing figures in architecture, Rupp’s contributions to design and her relentless advocacy for women in this field stand as a beacon of inspiration.

Early Life and Education

Born in 1943, in the war-torn landscape of Bremerhaven, Germany, Rupp’s journey to the pinnacle of architectural acclaim began with her family’s emigration to the United States in the 1950s. Her early years in a new country set the stage for a life marked by groundbreaking achievements.

Rupp’s academic pursuits led her to the University of California, Berkeley. Here, amidst the revolutionary spirit of the 60s and 70s, she cultivated her passion for architecture, graduating in 1966 with a Bachelor of Architecture. This period was instrumental in shaping her approach to design – one that would resonate with empathy, functionality, and environmental sensitivity.

Stanford’s Storey Residence House, Photo from Google Maps
Stanford’s Storey Residence House, Photo from Google Maps

A Career Defined by Innovation and Sustainability

Rupp’s professional journey was characterized by her unique approach to architectural design. In 1976, she established her own firm, SLR Architects, in Palo Alto, California, specializing in high-tech industrial and corporate buildings. Her work, particularly in Silicon Valley, was ahead of its time, merging practicality with innovative design. The Apple Computer Manufacturing Facility in Fremont, California, stands as a testament to her visionary approach – a space that was as humane as it was functional.

Other of Rupp’s most recognized works include Stanford’s Storey House and Press Building and an RF Testing Facility for Apple, which she was awarded an AIA Honor Award for, and a factory for Raychem Corp. She was also a member of the Union Internationale des Femmes , Organization of Women Architects and the American Institute of Architects. 

Raychem Corp’s six-year factory retrofit and rehab completed under Rupp, taken 1987, Photo from Menlo Park Planning flickr
Raychem Corp’s six-year factory retrofit and rehab completed under Rupp, taken 1987, Photo from Menlo Park Planning flickr

Beyond her architectural feats, Rupp was a fervent advocate for gender equality in the male-dominated field of architecture. She mentored young women architects, breaking down barriers and challenging the status quo. Her involvement in professional organizations bolstered her efforts to support and empower women in the field. Rupp’s advocacy went beyond mere words; her own firm exemplified inclusivity and equal opportunity.

Sigrid Lorenzen Rupp’s contributions to architecture and women’s rights have left an indelible mark on the profession. Her pioneering work in sustainable design and her efforts to pave the way for women in architecture resonate strongly today.

Rupp’s work serves as a reminder of the power of architecture to not only shape landscapes but also to break barriers and create inclusive spaces. Her story is not just one of architectural achievement; it’s a narrative of resilience, innovation, and unwavering commitment to equality and sustainability.

Women in Architecture: Sheila Sri Prakash

As part of our ongoing “Women in Architecture” series, we’re spotlighting a visionary who has significantly influenced sustainable architecture and urban design in India, Sheila Sri Prakash. From founding her own architectural firm to becoming a global voice for sustainable design, Prakash’s career is a testament to her dedication and innovation. Learn more about her remarkable life and achievements below:

The Life of Sheila Sri Prakash

Sheila Sri Prakash was born in Bhopal, India, in a time when the country was undergoing significant changes. She grew up immersed in the arts and studied Indian dances and art from a young age. That early fascination with architecture and art set the stage for a groundbreaking career. Prakash pursued her education at the School of Architecture and Planning, Anna University in Chennai, where she honed her skills and laid the foundation for her future achievements.

A frame using Prakash’s concept of reciprocity in design
A frame using Prakash’s concept of reciprocity in design, Photo by Lorenz Lachauer flickr

She finished her academic journey at the Harvard Graduate School of Design’s Executive Education Program and recognized the importance of social and cultural impact on design, a philosophy that would later define her career. Prakash’s education not only equipped her with technical expertise but also instilled in her a sense of social responsibility, which became a recurring theme in her work.

After completing her education, Sheila Sri Prakash founded Shilpa Architects in Chennai in 1979, becoming the first woman in India to start her own architectural practice. Her firm quickly gained recognition for its innovative approach, blending traditional Indian architectural principles with modern sustainable practices.

Notable Works and Achievements

Prakash’s portfolio features over 1,200 projects that encompass residential, commercial, and public use. She has been a pioneer in creating sustainable buildings and the concept of reciprocity in design, which has garnered her international acclaim. Her work is not just about constructing spaces but also about creating environments that better the lives of those who live around them.

Silver Falls Resort Restaurant design
Silver Falls Resort Restaurant design, ©Shilpa Architects

Her approach often involves using local materials and techniques, reducing the environmental impact of construction while also celebrating local culture and heritage. One of Prakash’s most recognized residential designs, Elysia, is a state-of-the-art apartment tower in Hyderabad, India. The building’s design includes a symmetrical facade, both vertically and horizontally, along with various sustainable features like various openings for natural light and landscaping. 

Another project currently under development, Silver Falls Resort located in the hills of Kodaikanal, India, features a nearly 5-acre site that includes 50 cottages and a restaurant and coffee shop built into the surrounding hills. The builds, inspired by English Cottage architecture, feature sloped roofs and bubble masonry among other unique elements. 

A reciprocal house designed by Prakash in 1987, the international year of the shelter for the homeless, for the World Bank and HUDCO, the design was used across South Asia
A reciprocal house designed by Prakash in 1987, the international year of the shelter for the homeless, for the World Bank and HUDCO, the design was used across South Asia

In recognition of her contributions, Prakash has received numerous awards and honors, including being named the Sustainability Champion of the Year in 2019 by Women in Design and Architecture, an Honorable Architect Award in 2015 from the Indian Institute of Architects and listed on the 50 most influential names in Architecture and Design in 2015 by Architectural Digest. 

Sheila Sri Prakash’s journey in architecture is not just a story of personal success but also a narrative of how visionary thinking can lead to transformative changes in the industry. Her distinguished career solidifies her as a leading figure in the world of architecture, whose work continues to inspire and influence the built environment.

Taking a Look at Non-extractive Architecture

In our journey towards a more sustainable future, architecture plays a pivotal role. At Optima®, we’re constantly exploring and embracing innovative practices that not only enhance our living spaces but also protect our planet. Among these forward-thinking approaches, non-extractive architecture stands out as a beacon of sustainable development.

So, what exactly is non-extractive architecture? It’s an approach that minimizes the environmental impact of buildings by using recycled, reclaimed, or repurposed materials. This method significantly reduces the demand for new resource extraction. While sustainable architecture is a broad term encompassing various practices, non-extractive architecture uniquely focuses on material sourcing and lifecycle. 

Unlike biophilic design, which integrates natural elements to enhance human well-being, or green building, which emphasizes overall environmental responsibility, non-extractive architecture specifically targets the reduction of raw material use. It’s a crucial step towards reducing our carbon footprint and fostering a more circular economy in construction.

K-Briq
Kenoteq’s K-Briqs made of recycled construction waste, Courtesy of Felix Speller

Recent examples of non-extractive materials include the K-Briq Construction Waste Bricks, a low-carbon alternative that is made of 90% recycled materials, Hybrit Steel, the world’s first fossil-free steel, which has the potential to reduce Sweden’s carbon emission by more than 10%, and Biotic, material research of biologically grown textiles made from resources like bacterial cellulose and dyed using natural plant and fruit waste. 

Globally, several projects embody the spirit of non-extractive architecture. The Bullitt Center in Seattle, with its self-sufficient and long-lifespan design, sets a high standard. The building is home to a rainwater-to-potable water system and composting toilet system, and when developing the project, builders ensured that over 360 toxic chemicals typically used in their building materials were absent from the project.  

Optima’s signature vertical landscaping system at Optima Kierland Apartments
Optima’s signature vertical landscaping system at Optima Kierland Apartments

At Optima, we embrace non-extractive architecture through xeriscaping in the use of our vertical landscaping system, which features self-containing drainage and helps reduce the waste of water while contributing to a sustainable urban environment.

The world of architecture is evolving, and non-extractive design is at the forefront of this change. Our commitment to sustainable practices is unwavering, and we invite you, our community, to join us in this exciting and necessary shift towards a more sustainable world.

How Architecture is Working to Combat Dementia

At Optima®, we’ve always believed that architecture is more than just buildings — it’s about creating environments that enrich lives. Today’s architectural innovations are showing remarkable potential for enriching lives, and specifically for supporting individuals with memory loss, offering not just safety and comfort but also a touch of joy in their daily lives.

Imagine a space that’s easy to navigate, where each corridor and room feels familiar and safe. This is the main goal when designing for dementia care. Simple layouts and clear signs help reduce confusion, making spaces feel more like a home and less like an institution. Safety is also paramount, but so is the freedom to explore. Thoughtful design usually includes secure outdoor spaces where residents can enjoy a bit of nature without the risk. Indoors, non-slip floors and good lighting are essentials, not afterthoughts.

But it’s not all about functionality. Sensory engagement through architecture can bring immense comfort. Picture a room bathed in natural light, offering views of a serene garden, or the soft melody of a familiar tune playing in the background. These elements can awaken memories and provide a sense of calm to those with dementia.

The Village’s nature walk
The Village’s nature walk, Courtesy of Départment Landes YouTube

Social spaces are also crucial to these designs. A well-designed common area can invite residents to interact, participate in activities, or simply enjoy each other’s company, all of which are vital for emotional well-being.

One of the leading examples of architecture designed to combat these diseases is the Alzheimer’s Village in Dax, France, the first of its kind in the country. Designed by the Danish architecture studio NORD Architects, the village features a handful of design elements that pull from Dax’s old town to create sensory familiarity for its residents.

The Alzheimer’s Village design is one brimming with intention. Pulling on the ideas of recognition and readability, the village is arranged in a bastide-like structure, broken up into four clusters that each house around 30 residents. The village features a grocery store, a restaurant and a hairdresser in its main square to help welcome familiarity. The thoughtful design, however, goes much deeper than just the facilities. 

An overhead view of one of the village’s four clusters
An overhead view of one of the village’s four clusters, Courtesy of Départment Landes YouTube

NORD architects purposely used local materials like timber planks, plaster and clay tiles to bring forth textures, colors and forms that are familiar to the residents. Other design elements, like the pattern of concrete arches and the inclusion of gardens and greenery throughout the community, all call back to the bastide design of old Europe.

Architecture, in its most profound sense, is about creating spaces that resonate with human needs. For those living with dementia, a thoughtfully designed environment, like the Alzeimer’s Village, can offer a semblance of normalcy, comfort, and dignity. It’s a bridge between the challenges of memory loss and the pursuit of a fulfilled life.

Women in Architecture: Ada Louise Huxtable

As part of our “Women in Architecture” series, we’re examining the life and work of luminary architectural critic, Ada Louise Huxtable, who proved that a pen could be as mighty as any structure.

Born in 1921 in New York City, Ada Louise Huxtable pursued her passion for architectural history, culminating in a master’s degree from New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts. However, her broadest impact came when she broke a glass ceiling as the first full-time architecture critic for The New York Times, in 1963. This was a cultural shift, bringing architectural discourse from the drafting tables to the dining tables of everyday readers.

Will They Ever Finish Bruckner Boulevard?

Amid the changing skyline of New York City, with events like the heart-wrenching demolition of Penn Station and the emergence of modern architectural wonders, Huxtable offered crisp, hard-hitting, pointed, and elegant critiques. She ventured beyond aesthetic judgment, assessing structures for their context, their dialogue with the urban environment, and their societal implications.

One of the hallmarks of Huxtable’s career was her advocacy for architectural preservation. She awakened a sense of loss in the public, making them realize the cultural and architectural wealth embedded in historic structures. But her criticism wasn’t just limited to the annals of the past. Contemporary designs, when lacking in vision or disconnected from their surroundings, didn’t escape her discerning eye. 

Frank Lloyd Wright: A Life

While her newspaper columns reached a vast audience, Huxtable extended her influence through her books. Over the span of her career she authored several titles, dissecting architectural trends, urban developments, and the intricate relationship between society and design. With books like Will They Ever Finish Bruckner Boulevard? and Frank Lloyd Wright: A Life among others, she penned a total of seven significant works, each contributing to architectural discourse.

Because of the depth and breadth of her contributions, Huxtable earned recognition across numerous fronts. In 1958, she received a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 1970, she became the first recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, an accolade that underscored her trailblazing efforts in the field. Alongside this, she secured a MacArthur Fellowship, firmly cementing her position as one of the foremost voices in architectural criticism.

The Unreal America

Huxtable continued to spearhead architectural preservation efforts well into her later years. And in spite of passing at the age of 91 in 2013, she serves as a powerful reminder of how a single voice can challenge us to see, think about, and engage with our built environment in deeper and more meaningful ways.

The Soleri Bridge and Plaza

Modern structures that serve as both functional and breathtaking forms of art speak to us at Optima®, including the Soleri Bridge and Plaza at the Scottsdale Waterfront, in close proximity to Optima Sonoran Village®. The bridge and its adjoining plaza, envisioned by the renowned artist, architect, and philosopher Paolo Soleri, have become emblems of Scottsdale’s artistic soul, resonating deeply with locals and tourists alike.

The bridge is an architectural spectacle that functions as a dynamic, organic solar calendar. Anchored by two towering 64-foot pylons, its south side spans 27 feet, tapering to 18 feet on the north. Its precise alignment with true north allows it to play a mesmerizing game with the sun. The 6-inch gap between the pylons lets the sun cast an ever-changing shaft of light, marking solar events as the seasons shift. On the summer solstice, the sun at its zenith leaves no shadow, while on the winter solstice, the shadow stretches its longest, almost reaching the bridge itself. 

Soleri Solar Calendar and Solstice Shadow. Photo: Jennifer Gill

Adjacent to the bridge, the plaza is an expansive 22,000-square-foot expanse, adorned with monolithic panels reminiscent of the aesthetics of Cosanti and Arcosanti. Each of these earth-cast panels, crafted meticulously over eight months using desert earth, water, and cement, weighs 3,500 pounds, and bears the intricate handwork of Soleri and his personal assistant, Roger Tomalty. The panels frame the plaza and lead towards the Goldwater Bell assembly, a fusion of Soleri’s commitment to architecture and ecology.

The story behind the project is as captivating as the structures themselves. A luminary in his field, Soleri has brought to life a concept he terms “arcology.” The bridge and plaza exemplify this philosophy, sharing an appreciation for our inherent connection to the sun and nature. Despite designing bridges for six decades, the Soleri Bridge was a first-of-its-kind commission for the then 91-year-old maestro.

Initiated by Scottsdale Public Art in 1990, the journey of the bridge and plaza from conception to completion was one of evolution and collaboration. As the canal’s surroundings transformed over two decades, so did the bridge’s design. The addition of the Waterfront Residences and commercial areas in 2007 provided the bridge with a context. Following funding and city approvals in 2008, the project took flight.

Soleri Bridge and Goldwater Bell. Photo: Yisong Yue

The unveiling of the bridge on December 11, 2010, was nothing short of a spectacle. A thousand-strong crowd converged on Old Town Scottsdale to witness the dedication. The event, a week shy of the winter solstice, showcased the bridge’s solar prowess, as attendees observed the sun’s shadow move between the pylons. 

The Soleri Bridge and Plaza encapsulate Scottsdale’s rich heritage, blending history with contemporary artistry. They stand as a testament to a city that cherishes the past, celebrates the present, and looks forward to the future, all while emphasizing the harmony between humanity and nature.

Women in Architecture: Elizabeth Diller

In our ongoing “Women in Architecture” series, we’re highlighting Elizabeth Diller, a visionary who turns metaphors into brick and mortar and continues to challenge conventional architecture. 

The Life of Elizabeth Diller

Elizabeth Diller was born in 1954 in Łódź, Poland, and moved with her parents, who were Holocaust survivors, to the United States when she was six. She was deeply affected by the social unrest of the late 1960s, which ultimately led her to enroll in the Cooper Union School of Architecture in 1970 which, at the time, was a creative hotbed and home to avant-garde design.

Initially, Elizabeth intended to pursue art or filmmaking, but ultimately found herself captivated by alternative methods of space-making. Even then, she was much more interested in the East Village music and art scene than in her classes. It wasn’t until Elizabeth met one of Cooper Union’s design professors, Ricardo Scofidio, that she became fully invested in design. After graduation, Diller and Scofidio became both romantic and creative partners, and emerged as prominent conceptual artists, focusing on comically dark design hacks and advancing the idea that “anything can be architecture” in their 1994 book, Flesh. This conceptual approach that challenged traditional architecture also earned them the coveted MacArthur Fellowship (known as the “Genius Grant”) in 1999.

On the Blur Building. Photo: Projectes I-II grup 12b

Notable Works

By 2000, Diller Scofidio projects were gaining considerable traction and scale, as demonstrated by their design for the Blur Building at the Swiss Expo in 2002. Utilizing a cloud of mist produced by 31,500 high-pressure nozzles over Lake Neuchâtel, this project encapsulated the team’s belief that architecture isn’t just about concrete unmovable structures, but can be an immersive, sensory experience. And as the partnership expanded to include Charles Renfro, the trio transformed the very essence of what a building could represent. 

Approaching the High Line, 2009. Photo: StaceyJean

In 2006, their firm took on the ambitious project of renovating a historic elevated train line in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. The result? The High Line, an urban park that floats amidst the skyscrapers, becoming an iconic piece of the city’s architectural landscape.

During the 2010s, Diller’s stature in the world of architecture expanded greatly as the firm undertook a host of ambitious, institutional and municipal projects, culminating in designing a massive extension to New York City’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 2019 as spaces for  modern and contemporary installations. Beyond allowing the museum to grow its exhibition footprint, this project redefined urban space, blurring the lines between public and private, museum and city.

MoMA Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Salon NYC

Just north of Chelsea, this stunning structure boasts a movable shell, allowing it to be reconfigured based on how the interior space is programmed. More recently, the team has undertaken numerous cultural and institutional projects, including the London Centre for Music and revitalizing the historic Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center, further securing a place for Diller and her partners in the architectural canon by creating a new language of contemporary design. 

Elizabeth Diller’s journey redefines the essence of architecture, merging innovation with functionality. Her transformative works extend beyond physical spaces to influence the cultural fabric of society. And her legacy is not solely in the impressive silhouettes of her buildings but in the way she inspires future generations to envision and craft the world anew.

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