News from
Office of Communications
Stanhope Hall, Princeton, New Jersey 08544-5264
Telephone 609-258-3601; Fax 609-258-1301

Contact: Steven Schultz 609/258-5729
Date: June 22, 1999

Princeton Architect, Four Ph.D. Alumni are Among This Year's MacArthur Fellows

Two Alumni Recipients Were Classmates

PRINCETON, N.J. -- A Princeton associate professor of architecture and four Princeton Ph.D. graduates are among this year's recipients of the prestigious The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowships, sometimes referred to as "genius" grants.

Elizabeth Diller, associate professor of architecture, will share a five-year, $375,000 grant with her long-time collaborator Ricardo Scofidio. The Princeton Ph.D. graduates who also received fellowships this year are Leslie Kurke (Classics 1988), Juan Maldacena (Physics 1996), Eva Silverstein (Physics 1996) and Jeffrey Weeks (Mathematics 1985). Maldacena and Silverstein were classmates.

More information about The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation grantmaking programs is available at the foundation's home page.

Biographical information on the recipients with Princeton affiliations follows. It was excerpted from the MacArthur Foundation press materials. 

Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio
Princeton University (Diller)
The Cooper Union (Scofidio)
Ages: 45 (Diller), 64 (Scofidio)
Residence: New York, NY

Total grant amount: $375,000

Diller and Scofidio have created an alternative form of architectural practice that unites design, performance, and electronic media with cultural and architectural theory and criticism. Their work explores how space functions in our culture and illustrates that architecture, when understood as the physical manifestation of social relationships, is everywhere, not just in buildings.

Their "Kinney House" reaches back to the nineteenth-century canal carpenter's wood house. Their "Slow House" (unfinished) reaches dynamically forward using video technology. "We Interrupt This Program" is a proposal commissioned by CNN for its headquarters in Atlanta, consisting of a matrix of liquid crystals, 100'x70'x1/2" in dimension, alternately translucent (showing "Headline News") and transparent (nearly invisible), and suspended so that it cuts the atrium in half. "Cold War" proposes to use an ice hockey rink as a video projection surface for computer-animated videos. Their recent series of collaborations with the Belgian Company Charleroi/Danses explores hidden connections between architecture and dance in such a way that the dance constructs and comments on the space it invokes.

Diller attended the Cooper Union School of Art and received a Bachelor of Architecture degree (1979) from the Cooper Union School of Architecture. She taught at The Cooper Union (1981-90) and has been Associate Professor of Architecture at Princeton since 1990 (director of graduate studies since 1993).

Scofidio studied at The Cooper Union School of Architecture (1952-55) and has a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Columbia University (1960). He has been Professor of Architecture at Cooper Union School since 1965.

The firm of Diller and Scofidio (D + S) was formed in 1979. They have received fellowships from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Study in the Fine Arts (1986), the New York Foundation for the Arts (1986, 1987, and 1989), and the Chicago Institute for Architecture and Urbanism (1989). Diller and Scofidio won the Tiffany Foundation Award for Emerging Artists (1990), and the Progressive Architecture Award (for Slow House, 1991), and held a media residency at the Centre for New Media Research, Banff Centre for the Arts (1993-95). They won the Chrysler Award for Achievement and Design in 1997. They published Flesh: Architectural Probes in 1995.

Leslie V. Kurke
Associate Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature
University of California, Berkeley
Age: 39
Residence: Berkeley, CA

Total grant amount: $290,000

Kurke is an interdisciplinary scholar of classical Greek antiquity and an expert in archaic Greek poetry. She is at the forefront of cultural poetics, a relatively new subdiscipline of classical studies that combines the methods of philology, new historicism, and cultural anthropology, and integrates the evidence of literary sources and material culture. 

Juan Martin Maldacena
Associate Professor of Physics
Harvard University
Age: 30
Residence: Cambridge, MA

Total grant amount: $245,000

Maldacena, a physicist, is redefining the boundaries of mathematical physics. He works in the highly abstract field of string theory, which postulates the existence of fundamental constituents of matter too small to detect with current experimental apparatus. He has made key conceptual breakthroughs that have clarified thorny problems in theoretical physics, including the ultimate structure of matter.

Eva Silverstein
Assistant Professor of Physics
Stanford Linear Accelerator Center
Age: 28
Residence: Stanford, CA

Total grant amount: $235,000

Silverstein, a theoretical physicist, questions fundamental assumptions of physics theory. In collaboration with Shamit Kachru, an assistant professor of physics at Berkeley, Silverstein is linking recent theories of particle physics and cosmology. She explores the relationship between the cosmological constant (a concept that originated with Einstein's general theory of relativity) and more recent explanations of particle physics based on string theory. These studies provide key insights into the age, structure, dynamics, and eventual fate of the universe.

Jeffrey R. Weeks
Independent Mathematician
Age: 42
Residence: Canton, NY

Total grant amount: $305,000

Weeks, a mathematician, is a researcher, writer, software developer, and mathematics educator. He has made fundamental contributions to the analysis of knots, and collaborates with cosmologists to interpret the shape of the universe. His software (available without charge) provides a powerful tool for researchers and for teaching low-dimensional geometry. In addition, Weeks writes texts and articles, targeted to young adults and non-specialists, that are designed to stimulate interest and skill in thinking about geometry and space.