Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Arbores Laetae, 2008

Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Arbores Laetae, 2008

Drawing equally on the tools of architecture, visual art, performance and new media, Diller Scofidio and Renfro are a trans-disciplinary practice whose projects consider space not as a neutral canvas, but a complex script, imbued with invisible conventions and histories.  It was founded in 1979 by Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio and Charles Renfro joined the practice in 1997, and became partner in 2004.

Their piece for MADE UP entitled Arbores Laetae (Joyful Trees) (2008) playfully reinvented the tradition of the public park and proposed a new model for green space in the urban context. Situated on a brownfield site adjacent to a key arterial route into the city centre, the work consisted of seventeen hornbeams formally planted in grid pattern which create a small wooden grove. At the heart of this landscape, three slowly rotating trees periodically disrupted the formality of the grid with their diagonal dance. 

The choice of a Latin title for the work – Arbores Laetae – exemplified the combination of rigour and playfulness which characterised Dillers Scofidio + Renfro’s approach. Each project involved extensive research not only into the physical site or form that provided the starting point for the work, but the conventions and debates governing that space. The result was a project that was both of the site for which it had been created, and a tool with which to see the site or context more clearly, throwing into relief conventions or realities which had gone unnoticed. 

Blur, for example, was a pavillion created for Swiss Expo 2002. Situated on a lake, the structure took its inspiration and form not only from the watery context of the lake and its weather systems, but also the imperative of spectacle that drives international expos. The Blur pavilion was constructed literally out of ‘hot air’, an artificially created fog that floated above the surface of the lake, obscuring a platform beneath. In a typically ironic play, Diller Scofidio + Renfro created a misty haze through which visitors could see their surroundings more clearly. 

In Arbores Laetae, they followed the conventions of horticulture and gave their newly invented species a Latin name. The Joyful Tree was a tree created specially for an urban, roadside, setting. This new hybrid crossbred the endless movement of surrounding traffic with the leafy backdrop of street greenery, merging nature – the imagined site of respite and retreat – with the dynamics of city life and created a new reality. Incorporating a strong performative element, Arbores Laetae choreographed the everyday. Trees no longer formed a green backdrop, but became central characters on the urban stage; visitors were not onlookers, but cast as performers in a pleasurable dance of discovery.

Diller Scofidio + Renfro at Liverpool Biennial 2008

Arbores Laetae, 2008
Commissioned by Liverpool Biennial 2008
Exhibited at the corner of St George Street and Parliament Street

Supported by

Northwest Regional Development Agency
Liverpool Vision
The Mersey Forest with the Forestry Commission
European Objective 1 programme