At the start of a day devoted to the connections between architecture and new technology, Elizabeth Diller, of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, urged architects to continue to use “the whole repertoire of old-fashioned tools that are not really getting replaced, just supplemented.” She described the firm’s best-known project, the High Line, as low-tech, and said the popularity of Blur—its first building “for a mass audience”—could be explained by the structure’s simplicity. She conceded that one of the firm’s newest projects, a cinch-waisted condo tower in Manhattan’s Hudson Yards, could not have been designed without CATIA (Computer Aided Three-dimensional Interactive Application), the CAD program that has its origins in aircraft fabrication. Still, she argued, technology shouldn’t be seen as itself a generator of architectural forms so much as ”an agent” to be used “with other, dumber systems.”
The challenge Diller described—finding simplicity in a world of dizzying technological innovation—set the tone for the 11th annual Architectural Record Innovation Conference, which drew 400 people to the auditorium of Manhattan's McGraw-Hill Building on October 3. True, Ole Scheeren couldn’t describe CCTV, the five-million-square-foot building he and Rem Koolhaas designed to cantilever over Beijing, as simple, but he did make a strong case that its form grew directly out of its function. And he traced the history of the “service core,” which is part of every skyscraper, to a house designed by “domestic economist” Catharine Beecher in the 1860s. Exploring what he called “core values,” he explained how innovative cores helped generate the startling forms of several of his buildings, including a housing development in Singapore made of tower blocks arranged lengthwise around hexagonal courtyards, and a skyscraper in Bangkok that looks as though parts of it have blown away.