What is "definitively unfinished" design?

This week I was transported to New York City as I listened to a podcast suggested by a reader of The Drill.

It was ‘Person Place Thing’ by Randy Cohen, with architect Elizabeth Diller. She explained her concept of projects that are “definitively unfinished”, a term borrowed from artist Marcel Duchamp.

Elizabeth said that some architects - such as Norman Foster - practice “total design”, prescribing the pens and desk lamps in an office building, for example. “Architects are the biggest megalomaniacs in the world,” she claimed!

In contrast, DSR’s projects can easily be: “repurposed, reimagined and rescripted”. “We hand things over to the public and sometimes we find the way things are used is better than we could’ve imagined. It’s kind of great.”

The place she nominated was the sunken theatre overlooking 10th Ave, part of the High Line, which we visited in 2017. It’s a mesmerising place to sit and watch the street - like a fireplace or lava lamp, as Elizabeth described it - where the viewer can look into deep space and see the vanishing point.

It gives people permission to not have to do anything, and helps to reframe the everyday, Elizabeth suggested.

To me, that’s the power of good design.

There’s a link in this week’s Drill newsletter to the podcast if you’re keen to listen to it.

Rachael Bernstone at the 10th Street overpass, The High Line, New York City

Rachael Bernstone at the 10th Street overpass, The High Line, New York City