Deja Vu All Over Again

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I enjoyed Lee Rosenbaum’s recent piece in the Wall Street Journal about Boston’s new Institute for Contemporary Art, the one designed by Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio. Rosenbaum draws a connection between the ICA’s cantilevered upper story, which has a room descending at an angle from its underside, and the not so different silhouette of Rafael Vinoly’s Boston Convention Center a few blocks away, which can be accessed on her website here. (My own take on the ICA from a December issue of Time can be found here.

The room sloping downward from the ICA is a very different thing from the one descending from Vinoly’s Convention Center — Diller + Scofidio designed it in such a way that it opens a view directly onto the surface of the waters of Boston Bay, creating the impression for anyone inside that they are looking at a glistening and slightly unreal wall of water. All the same, now that it’s been pointed out, the family resemblance between the ICA and Vinoly’s building, at least in that one area, is unmistakable. It got me to thinking about the many times I’ve experienced a kind of architectural deja vu. Whether it’s a matter of coincidence, homage, unconscious influence, free quotation, outright steal or simply two architects who have each offered their own take on a historic form, it happens quite a bit. It happened again last fall when I visited Cesar Pelli’s new Minneapolis Central Library.


It’s a superb building, but it’s also one with a roof that brought to mind Vinoly’s famous Tokyo International Forum, which I visited two years ago.


Great minds thinking alike? From time to time I’ll post other examples.