Architectural monographs are the equivalent of fashion magazine layouts—ravishing models airbrushed to perfection, makeup, clothes and flattering angles carefully calibrated to induce gasps of admiration and envy. The murkier backstory of those layouts—costume changes, inconvenient blemishes, personality clashes, tantrums—remains, of course, out of view, left to our imaginations, or better yet, rendered moot by the splendor of the final package.
Which is what makes Lincoln Center Inside Out, a record of the decade-long redesign of New York’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts by the New York-based architectural practice Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R), a different sort of monograph. To be sure, there’s the requisite jaw-droppping photography—namely a series of inside-out, full-bleed centerfolds featuring knockout images by architectural photographers Iwan Bann and Matthew Montieth. And the compelling, purely typographic cover makes it a worthy addition to the canon of coffee table tomes. But what lies behind the luscious gloss is, in many ways, the true story of the refurbished Lincoln Center, and it’s a story that Diller Scofidio + Renfro is eager to tell.
No undertaking of this magnitude—harmonizing a mammoth complex of disparate buildings, balancing the competing interests of preservationists, academics, donors and citizenry—can proceed without a measure of drama. And it’s these “back stories,” beautifully illustrated through a compilation of photographs, drawings, renderings, archival records and texts, that reveal the complexities, and, ultimately, the gratification of heading up an innovative project in the most challenging of cities.
Lincoln Center Inside Out is a narrative that, in may ways, mirrors that of New York City itself. Living in this crowded, chaotic, expensive city requires a unique brand of transcendence that brings a thrilling sense of accomplishment. A thrill, New Yorkers will say, that lies as much in the journey as the destination. With this book, Diller Scofido + Renfro has given us a window into an impressive journey of transcendence, thrills and singular civic accomplishment.
Photos: Diller Scofido + Renfro