Neil Denari vs. Diller Scofido Renfro vs.


OK, so I've been wanting to know, can anyone claim to be the originator of the fluid, curved line, interconnected floor plate look that was so popular in the '90s and even now? I'm obviously looking at Denari and Diller Scofidio. I would also say MVRDV for the VPRO but they used it sparingly compared to the other two.

In your opinion, who owns the look? Back it up with project names and dates. Yeah, these are the silly things we argue about in the office.

May 11, 10 1:34 pm

Diller Scofidio - Eyebeam

May 11, 10 1:37 pm

OMA, Educatorium, 1996

May 11, 10 1:50 pm

2004 = Eyebeam
2002 = Carlow Art Center

May 11, 10 1:51 pm

I would say Denari's Vertical Smoothhouse -


May 11, 10 2:00 pm
Distant Unicorn

Okay, this is going to sound stupid:

How does Eyebeam even standup? According to the illustrations, it seems to be two skins sandwich over perforated i-beams, electrical and HVAC. But I do not see a single interior or exterior support beam or wall.

May 11, 10 2:17 pm

For the record, The Eyebeam was designed in 2000 and the competition was decided in 2001.

May 11, 10 2:24 pm

it's pretty clear to me that the rouge-android-spider-thing is strapping it all together.

May 11, 10 2:27 pm
Cherith Cutestory

Can I just add that as much as I enjoy the work of DISCO (Diller Scofido) the eyebeam competition was clearly borrowed formalism from much of Neil's earlier work. I remember having this discussion in class one day about how it was the one competition that Denari tried something different and everyone else did a Denari-inspired design which ended up being the look the competition was after.

When it comes down to it, I think many people consider Greg Lynn to be the originator of much of the fluid work that we are seeing today. Granted his work takes a slightly different formal direction that is more blob than streamlined fillet, but the idea of splines, etc all comes from his earlier books. I'm sure there are probably a few others during the same time that were working in this method as well, you just always hear Lynn as being the "grandfather" of all this work.

In that vein, I would argue that Preston Scott Cohen is really taking these ideas and this work and potentially moving it in a new and exciting direction. Instead of so many that are using this as strictly a formal and aesthetic driven device, much of his work is about understanding the actual geometry through perspective and math. It may all end up to just be complicated post-rationalism but for the time being I think his work merits some study.

May 11, 10 2:30 pm


May 11, 10 2:33 pm

To my mind, OMA's Jussieu project is something different (fluid floorplates but no curve as such). OMA's 1996 Utrecht Educatorium (cited by 987654321 above), is, however, rather unequivocally, the same concept and it was designed two years before Smoothouse.

Going back further, a similar curve to Denari's later workin the 1993 design of Villa VPRO in Hilversum (MVRDV)

The VPRO curve and the Educatorium curve are different, but it seems to me that Smoothhouse borrowed generally from both to produce its own synthesis.

May 11, 10 2:53 pm

FOA - Farshid has claimed that DS+R ripped them off..

See FOA's 1996 - Azadi Complex and compare to the 'Eyebeam' which was "designed" in 2000....hmmm.

Then there was...1997 Casa Virtual.

She may have a point...a very strong point.

May 11, 10 3:21 pm

FOA 1996

DS+R about 2000?

May 11, 10 3:25 pm

All of these projects owe a debt to Frederick Kiesler's 1960 endless house.

May 11, 10 3:26 pm

still looks like FOA and OMA were both preceded by MVRDV.. but the dates were all pretty close. Looks like three Dutch firms were dialogueing at just about the same period of time (1993 to 96 or so). It'll be pretty hard to argue that DS+R and Denari developed the same concepts completely independently.

May 11, 10 3:27 pm

hehe psheldahl .. that's not even derivative. That's just theft.

May 11, 10 3:28 pm


May 11, 10 3:36 pm

FOA, MVRDV and OMA are the same linage

Farshid was at OMA prior to starting her own practice in 1993
MVRDVs' Maas and Van Rijs worked at OMA and started their practice in 1991.

OMA is the common link...who knows what was in the water there, but obviously Farshid, Winy and Jacob were drinking it.

I think DS+R was just a little late to the party....a lot late...and theft is a good word to use in this case.

May 11, 10 3:57 pm

What about the Möbius house by UN Studio? It has the same formal idea (floor becomes wall, becomes ceiling), albeit in a different shape and context. design/construction 1993/1998 (roughly overlapping with the Educatorium in time...

May 11, 10 3:58 pm

wow.. four Dutchies, all in the OMA lineage. Maas and Van Rijn both worked at UN Studio. If I had to take a wild guess, OMA, MVRDV, OMA and UN Studio charretted on this concept sometime around 1993,, and their firms respectively developed it into various realizations and projects over the next three years (Educatorium, Vlla VPRO, Modius House, Azadi Complex).

btw, this is a great exercise in collaboartive architectural history research ;P

May 11, 10 4:06 pm

btw, this may be more complicated: all of these firms except Denari (DS+R, FOA, MVRDV, OMA and UN Studio) all had at least one principal teaching (or studying) at the GSD in 1991. which begs the question, who stole from whom....

May 11, 10 4:27 pm

the last was an observation my colleague at work just made..

May 11, 10 4:27 pm

what about Oscar Niermeyer? although his folding plate had more to do with sculptural roof forms...

May 11, 10 4:51 pm

well.. if you really want to go back in time, I suppose there are hints of this type of curve in a few Eero Saarinen buildings, including the JFK TWA terminal (1956).

I'm not saying its the same thing, but there could be a geneologicasl resemblance.

May 11, 10 5:18 pm

I always thought there were many clues to this concept in The Haus Schminke by Hans Scharoun, 1933. It was designed for a noodle factory owner!

And Mackey Apts. by R M Schindler, 1939 is my local reference.

As well as Denari's work. Somewhere we briefly talk about your question without mentioning names.

Another local and built reference is La Eyeworks and recent Alan Woo House, also by NMDA.

I am less interested who owns what, but more interested who has done excellent work with those ideas, going beyond all those sinuous, familiar, overkilled and tired renderings.

May 11, 10 5:33 pm
"four Dutchies, all in the OMA lineage"

i don't believe that ben van berkel ever worked for rem... i'm pretty sure that he actually worked for calatrava for a time... although he may have been rem's student at the AA...

May 11, 10 5:36 pm

btw, right down the street from OMA's educatorium is UN studio's NMR facility (1997-2000)... also, we can't forget that most of this stuff emerged out of a misreading of deleuze...

May 11, 10 5:42 pm

claude parent and paul virilio threw the gaunlet on this one - 1966

interconnectedfloor plates


May 11, 10 5:47 pm
May 11, 10 5:48 pm

In a studio I taught two years ago, I asked a student to try and build the eyebeam-he was looking through model images and basically figured out that a column grid runs vertical through it-at least that's what the model indicated. As best as he could find, there were no drawings that suggested it, though.

May 11, 10 5:54 pm

Van den Broek & Bakema @ TU Delft

the Dutch lineage is right, but predates OMA.

May 11, 10 6:40 pm

oh my, dot. That is some fillet.

May 11, 10 6:42 pm
May 11, 10 6:42 pm

the fillet isn't quite there as much, but definitely the section as an extrusion expressed at the facade.

May 11, 10 7:35 pm
Distant Unicorn
May 11, 10 7:39 pm
Distant Unicorn

1920 and 1973, respectively.

May 11, 10 7:41 pm

Oh yeah, uni, and definitely 70s graphics, too. I've got a great Beach Boys album cover (Surfer Girl, I think) that rocks this look. Also some Jackson 5.

May 11, 10 7:52 pm

hmmm... not sure about full on buildings, but the morphing of building elements can be traced back as far as gunnar asplund:

May 11, 10 10:15 pm

ack. doesn't like flikr as an image: link

May 11, 10 10:16 pm

As Cherith mentions above, Greg Lynn was a protagonist, particularly through 'Animate Form' published in 1999.

Keisler is the precedent.

Another two not mentioned is Lars Spruyboek/NOX and Kas Oosterhuis - again both Dutch. No doubt you recall the blue interior shots from HtwoOexpo completed in 1997.

Neither of which were at OMA as far as I can tell. Kas worked with Theo van Doesburg which is pretty hardcore.

May 11, 10 11:50 pm

i dont think we have enough parameter and equal framework to decide that. it could be freely traced anywhere at anytime and by any'who'..

May 12, 10 5:12 am

true, unknown, this is an exercise in speculation. but that doesn't make it irrelevant. it's a way to understand the constant flows of influence and synthesis that all of us do at one point or another.

i'm not against 'theft', if that's what you want to call it. it's the foundation of a lot of my favorite music, for example. we all learn from the work of others and build on what's come before, whether that's apparent in our work or less so.

i found it fascinating when i was in the netherlands that a lot of the elements of what i thought was early-21stC dutch design had such a clear lineage in other previous dutch work. it wasn't disappointing at all to see that the new work wasn't a brand-spanking-new creation but arose out of a family tree of sorts but, instead, strangely comforting. good work doesn't have to be the result of isolated works of genius!

May 12, 10 7:40 am

star trek next generation came out in 1987 - coincidence?

May 12, 10 10:13 am

@Orhan Ayyüce: I'd add Corbusier's Villa Baizeau to that list as well:

Knocked me out when I saw it in Oeuvre Complete

@Unicorn Slaughter according to the book (or pamphlet really) the museum is bracketed by to concrete cores. In renderings these are usually ghosted pretty aggressively, though you can see them in the model.

@Steven Ward: nice find!!

@psheldal $ Urbanist: For my money it's more valuable to see what each has changed from instance to instance (in this case DS+R's two loops are hierarchically of equal importance, both spatial, and programmatically sided whereas FOA's split program from circulation and was less concerned with the flip from side to side) than to assume they're all stealing the same idea. (though someone should look into this GSD1991 connection - who were the critics/lecturers, what were the big publicized competitions?) It's worth mentioning that the ICA was preceded by the Brasserie

@to-arch: Jussieu as preceded by ZKM Fukuoka and Agadir makes the whole thing look like a lineage of development.

May 12, 10 12:31 pm

In summer 1991, Harvard's Loeb Library purchased a drawing and slide analysis of Le Corbusier's Palais des Congres a Strasbourg.



May 12, 10 1:13 pm

@ one: Awesome Kipnis made much of the link between this building and OMA's Agadir Convention Center, but I had forgotten which Corb project it was. Thanks!

May 12, 10 1:40 pm

to some extent, doesn't the formal implications of this type of curve owe something to MC Escherisms?

Walls that shift into roofs, and vice versa, floors that become walls.. as part of a continuous gesture?

May 12, 10 1:52 pm

Esscher? Another Dutchie...starting to see a pattern here. But anyways heard once from a teacher that a student at the AA had a project like this with folded walls/floors and that some bigshot in the jury (here my memory fails me but he was Dutch so either Koolhaas, van Berkel or Maas) used it for their own use afterwards. But since this is all based on hearsay it wouldn't hold up in court...

May 12, 10 3:05 pm
Distant Unicorn

It wouldn't technically hold up period-- utilitarian mumbo-jumbo. You'd either have to duplicate the construction details almost exactly or you'd have to make an exact duplicate of someone else's idea.

However, the idea is too vague for it to be afforded any sort of copyright protection.

I've said this before-- unless there is some insurmountable novelty factor or very specific ornamentation, it is hard to prove plagiarism in architecture.

Even then, isn't a bit of plagiarism healthy? I'd rather see one idea presented 20 different ways than twenty different ideas for one way. It means the original idea had enough merit to be duplicated and that the original idea was intriguing enough to be approached by a diverse group of people.

20 different answers for one idea? That seems troubling that there would even be that many permutations.

@18x32, I see what appears to be the supporting walls on the side. However, the beams that run between ribbons still run parallel to those walls. If those thinner posts by the windows are structural, I'd image there would have to be some variety of beams that run perpendicular to the floor beams and exterior sandwich walls.

The ribbon could very well be structural for all I know. (Disclaimer: Outside of classical/historic structures, I know literally shit about structures.)

The only reason I'm not getting over this is that I have a feeling that the characteristic of this building would dramatically change if it was ever built. It is pretty glorious right now... but it seems like it would be a completely different building if it were actually standing.

May 12, 10 3:28 pm

it will be interesting to see what Diller+Scofido+Renfro come up with for the SFMOMA expansion in San Francisco.

May 12, 10 4:00 pm
psheldahl are correct about the practicalities of trying to build this shape, at least when it comes to DS+R. Just go see the ICA,

..they attempted 'the' fold which, in reality, is a normal steel building with a rounded stucco 'cornice' to give the 'look' of continuity...

It gets worst, IMO. Look closely at the exterior stairs of the ICA where they so badly wanted the idea of continuity to continue down as the stair stringer. In the end it is Alucobond, folded to look like a steel I-Beam in order to, once again, try and promote a continuity..or fake continuity. This Alucobod is carried up through the building to basically 'code' the building into a "ribbon". I don't remember who actually said it, but I recall someone saying that the ICA killed the "Ribbon".

I just remembered reading an article in a while back, I forot where I read it, but just found it on a blog a small segment.

By Philip Nobel
May 18, 2007
"The image of a folding plane that becomes floor, wall, and ceiling—only an image, because when built it is always a fake—has been a staple of “edgy” work for more than a decade. At the ICA, one winds its turgid way throughout. Neil Denari, who may have been the first to popularize the motif, called his version a “worldsheet,” but the same empty form has been used by Lindy Roy in a house in the Hamptons and, most famously, by Rem Koolhaas in his Educatorium, in Utrecht. If spades were indeed going to be called spades, the ICA would be dismissed, instantly and wholesale, as a startlingly ham-fisted homage to OMA—one, moreover, nearly bare of the transient joys that Rem regularly works into his buildings."

Here is a good view of the stucco and alucobond ribbon...nice huh :) It is FAKE...added cornice to appear as a continuous plate. It is never reflected on the inside because it doesn't exist. Does it matter if it is fake ?

May 12, 10 4:24 pm

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