I've published two books. Designing the Hamptons (Edizioni, 2006) and Brooklyn Modern (Rizzoli, 2008). I founded a magazine called WORK in 2004.
While at Next City, I helped to create a number of events and programs including the annual leadership conference, Vanguard; the Storefront for Urban Innovation; the pavilion Innovative Americas; and others.
At Next City, I enlisted Quilian Riano of DSGNAGNC and Next City's creative director Anthony Smyrski to design a pavilion for the World Urban Forum called “Innovative Americas." Local partners Proyecto NN helped to source local materials and build the pavilion on site.
“Exhibition booths are often anonymous spaces with little potential for meaningful interaction,” Riano writes in a blog post explaining the modular space’s structure. “The Innovative Americas booth is designed to facilitate discussion and questioning through flexible elements that allow multiple uses.”
Posters, for instance, are replaced with “cubes that can be taken out of their frame, examined and used as seating.” Depending on how you flip the features, it can be a bleacher, chalkboard or bookshelf.
Pieces written about Philly in the New York Times, The Philadelphia Citizen and elsewhere.
The Bright Side of Blight
The New York Times, 2011.
Even in Philadelphia, with its 40,000 vacant properties and a quarter of its population living below the poverty line, the Kensington neighborhood still shocks. On a frigid afternoon, a prostitute lingers in the shadow of the elevated train tracks, waiting restlessly for customers. Husks of long-closed factories stand amid thigh-high winter wheat. Streams of garbage flow down the streets, as if both the people and the city government had agreed to forsake the effort of propriety. Read on in The New York Times.
Videos from presentations at Creative Mornings, TEDxPhilly and other venues. Short videos I've made or others have made featuring my work. Television commentary on Huffington Post Live and Al Jazeera to come soon.
David Dillon Symposium, April 19, 2013
Taking Back Public Spaces
A talk for the Creative Mornings series, which had the theme "Cross Over."
TEDxPhilly - On dismantling urban highways in cities
Next City's 10th Anniversary
Darren Walker of the Ford Foundation, Neill Coleman of the Rockefeller Foundation and I introduce Next City's 10th Anniversary,
"God Created Transit" Parody of Super Bowl Ad
In 2012, a Super Bowl Ad ran called "God Created a Farmer" that promoted buying a pickup truck. I created a parody called "God Created Transit" that promoted using transit. It's been viewed 15,000 times.
TED City 2.0 Award Video
Next City's Storefront for Urban Innovation won a TED City 2.0 Award. They made this short video about the project in 2012.
Reported articles from Next City, Architectural Record and elsewhere.
Five Ways to Fix the Urban Pensions Crisis
A historic settlement in Detroit last week paved the way for the city to emerge from bankruptcy in what some would call a heroic feat of collaboration and philanthropy. The so-called grand bargain buys the city nearly a decade to get its finances in order. But while it has raised capital to reduce its debts and structured agreements to resolve others, Motor City’s pension problem has barely budged. It still owes $500 million in pension payments per year — more than twice the city’s annual income tax revenues.
At a recent Penn Institute for Urban Research event, “Urban Fiscal Stability and Public Pensions: Sustainability Going Forward,” a panel of pension funding experts overwhelmingly agreed that transparency could help solve the pension crisis — that facts and figures revealing the degree of the problem would incite taxpayers to care and local officials to act. But talk alone can’t change a financial model that’s broken. The whole world knowing about Detroit’s problem hasn’t been a magic bullet for that pension crisis.
Stanford professor Joshua Rauh said new retirement benefits models will be necessary. He suggested that instead of creating pensions that promise terms they simply can’t deliver on in perpetuity, payouts should be linked to how well a retirement fund delivers. He noted that the S&P 500 went up by 75 percent between 2009 and 2013. Yet after studying 10 cities, he found that even though pensions are heavily invested in stocks, six of the 10 cities saw their unfunded liabilities fall by just an average of 16 percent; meanwhile in four cities, including New York and Philadelphia, these liabilities actually increased.
What Will an NBA Team Bring to a Struggling City? “Not Much”
Next City, 2014.
Talk to Tom Knoche about the just-announced deal to move the NBA’s 76ers training facility from Philadelphia to Camden, and the Rutgers-Camden urban planning professor pointedly says: “What does this mean for the residents of Camden? Not much.”
In a city that was ranked the poorest in the country last year and where the unemployment rate is 16.6 percent (double that of New Jersey and far beyond the national average of 6.3 percent), New Jersey’s Economic Development Authority is going to spend $82 million in tax subsidies to build a state-of-the-art venue in a deal that will deliver approximately 250 jobs. With 200 of those positions already filled, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the state is paying a whopping $1.6 million per new job created.
Casa Poli is only a 30-mile drive from Chile’s second-largest city, Concepción, midway down the country’s coast, but it feels perched at the edge of the world: a place with limitless ocean views, a soundtrack provided by wind and pelicans, and no other human beings within eyeshot, except for local fishermen in boats, hundreds of feet offshore. Venture 45 minutes outside any major city in the United States, and you’re in an exurban tangle of highways, but here, half the roads remain unpaved. In the States, a weekend house such a quick jaunt from the city would mean high prices for land and construction, yet here, Pezo von Ellrichshausen Architects (PvE) built almost 2,000 square feet for $63,000 dollars. Read on at Architectural Record.
In the Press
Recent press in the Columbia Journalism Review, Philadelphia Magazine and elsewhere.
Philadelphia Magazine | November 2014
NATHANIEL: The Athenaeum made both of our lists of favorite buildings in Philadelphia. What is it you like about it?
DIANA: The Athenaeum is like a bunch of other buildings in Philadelphia I adore: They’re set in time. They feel completely separate from what’s going on a couple blocks away on 8th and Market, which would be the total absence of feeling. When I compare the Athenaeum to a lot of architecture that we build today, I feel we’ve dumbed down the palette and created buildings intended to be timeless but that don’t transport you anywhere.
NATHANIEL: But contemporary architects have to deal with an extraordinary number of constraints. You have to satisfy the function of the building and contemporary aesthetic instinct — which is confusing because no one knows what that is. You also have to consider sustainability, budget, and maybe a site that’s difficult to work with. I think in many cases the architect is doing an admirable job trying to balance those things.
DIANA: Yes, but one of the things that’s lacking in a lot of residential buildings is a sense of daring. I don’t think the Piazza is a wonderful piece of architecture, but I do think 50 years from now, people will look at that section of Northern Liberties and think, What a weird moment. I compare that to what’s being built on South Broad Street, and there are developers with very bland buildings.
NATHANIEL: Yes, there’s no culture amongst Philadelphia developers that says, I need to beat that guy with my architecture. I’m going to outdo him.
DIANA: I feel like the places where you see interesting architecture these days are the universities. You can sense — especially with new presidents at Temple and Drexel — some competition there. Look at Penn’s new nanotechnology building.
NATHANIEL: The Singh Center for Nanotechnology at Penn is a great example of a daring building that arrests you as you walk by. How about another 21st-century favorite?
DIANA: The Barnes. Despite all the issues around moving it, I think at this point you’d be hard-pressed to say it was a bad idea. The way the architects simplified details of the building, the light — all of that feels beautiful.
NATHANIEL: I agree. I also like Drexel’s Millennium Hall, by Erdy McHenry. It looks like a woman with billowing skirts. It’s using contemporary technology and engineering to do something interesting.
DIANA: For the 20th century, I love the PSFS building in terms of the way it hits the street, its signage, the fact of it being America’s first International Style skyscraper.
NATHANIEL: I once had the opportunity to ask architects what their favorite Philadelphia buildings were, and they all said the PSFS building. What about the 19th century?
DIANA: Reading Terminal. Part of me is like, darn, the Hard Rock Cafe — but there’s another part that’s so glad that mash-up is happening there. I love the way the building looks on Market Street. It feels like a perfect Philly moment: great architecture, crazy stuff happening on the street in front.
NATHANIEL: The 19th century is really difficult because that’s when Philadelphia was predominantly built. One of my favorites is the Frank Furness [Fisher Fine Arts] library at Penn. I love the curved wall, and the terra-cotta is particularly beautiful. When you sit in the reading room, you’re a student of a certain type and time.
DIANA: For the 18th century, I love Carpenters’ Hall. It’s a little gem, a little tiny cupcake of a building.
NATHANIEL: A cupcake! I love Christ Church. When it was built, it was the tallest building in North America, so there was that sense of ambition. It was that proof of religious freedom in America, because in the Quaker City, you could charter other religions. And also I love the facade. It’s crooked and really ancient-looking. It represents an almost baroque style that we don’t have much of in Philadelphia, yet it’s so much about Philadelphia and its role in the world at the same time.
Interview on Phillymag.com
t’s not easy to find a woman leading a newsroom. Yes, women do ascend to the top spots of newspapers and magazines — but sometimes, as in the case of the New York Times’Jill Abramson, they leave the position just as quickly as they ascended. In fact, there are fewer women leading major newsrooms now there were a decade ago.
One person who has noted the trends — and bucked them — is Diana Lind, editor-in-chief of Philadelphia-based NextCity.org, a website devoted to urban issues around the world. She doesn’t just lead the staff — she shares the masthead with four other women in the website’s top spots. Read more.
Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2013.
They came to learn and to admire – and they came away amazed.
Organized by Next City, a non-profit media organization based in Philadelphia that provides national daily online coverage of urban affairs, the conference convened 43 young planners, academics, developers, transit officials, community activists and economic development experts in Cleveland for two full days of networking and meetings. Read more.
The latest demographic numbers show that more and more young university graduates and professionals are staying in Philadelphia.
Do you ever wonder what they're doing here? Many are feverishly designing ways to help transform the city's urban landscape into a place they want to live and invest in.
Now, a well-established national digital publication is adding a Philadelphia voice to capture the energy and purpose of this growing urban activism.
In the 2800 block of West Girard Avenue, a relatively new enterprise has opened an office in an old storefront. The display window is occupied by the vestiges of a kid-size carousel, while roughly constructed wooden chairs stand at the entrance ready to be placed on the sidewalk. This was once a toy store or a retailer for children's clothing, no one really remembers.
But what really intrigues the neighbors in this once-thriving street in Brewerytown is that the new store doesn't seem to sell anything at all. Read more.
The Philadelphia Inquirer, 2012
The Nutter administration loves to plan stuff. It has probably turned out more master plans in the last four years than the previous two administrations combined. And yet there's one part of the city that it has steadfastly refused to discuss: the I-95 corridor.
Vastly overbuilt in the mid-'60s, the 10-lane superhighway cut off the city's - no, make that America's - most historic neighborhoods from the Delaware waterfront. The broad canyon is a key reason that Penn's Landing, and hundreds of acres along the river, remain undeveloped today.
Given the growing interest in capturing the waterfront's economic potential, the future of I-95 should be a hot topic in City Hall. Instead, it's virtually taboo. The highway barrier rated only a modest mention in the two most important planning reports produced by the Nutter administration - the Delaware waterfront master plan and the citywide comprehensive plan for 2035. The lack of interest is baffling because the segment of the aging interstate that runs through Center City is due for a federal overhaul in the next 25 to 30 years. In the world of highway engineering, that's practically tomorrow. Read more.