Elizabeth Diller

Yours is the story of an iconoclastic upstart who became one of the preeminent architects of a generation. As a young student at Cooper Union in the 1970s, you were drawn to the rigor and dynamism of architecture, despite an earlier resolution never to go into the profession. There, you met Ricardo Scofidio, who would become your partner in business and in life, the two of you destined to become the first architects to receive MacArthur Foundation Fellowships. For two decades, you and he eschewed traditional brick-and-mortar constructions for transient installations that reveled in the rejection of convention. This confident and knowingly ironic embrace of an impermanent architecture was perhaps best captured by the provocative Blur Building, an ephemeral pavilion of mist hovering over a lake in Switzerland. After accepting your first building commission from a major cultural institution, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, you developed a seminal design that achieved a well-calibrated balance between indoor and outdoor space, and between the demands of a private museum and the public waterfront on which it was built. With the High Line in New York, you reimagined the relationship between the city and its pedestrians, celebrating the immense power of altered perspective, much to the delight of the millions who experience this destination every year. At Lincoln Center, you transformed a hallowed space and its imposing building facades into a bustling tableau of urban culture. We are fortunate at Columbia to be the beneficiaries of your extraordinary vision and talent. The award- winning Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center, opened in 2016, is the physical resource essential to Columbia’s reimagining of 21st-century medical education. And the dramatic, facing structures you have designed to be the new home of Columbia Business School will rightfully be featured as the centerpieces of Columbia’s Manhattanville campus. For fearlessly reinventing some of the most cherished urban spaces in the nation, and for embracing through your inspiring work the ironies that give meaning to our lives, Columbia is proud to present you with the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.