University of Illinois at Chicago (Paulina)

  • anchor

    Bruce Mau Lecture in Chicago

    By Paulina
    May 23, '05 11:35 AM EST

    Bruce Mau (born 25 Oct 1959, Sudbury) is a Canadian designer whose work addresses the design culture that permeates all aspects of everyday life and allows Bruce Mau Design (BMD), a Toronto design studio, has gained wide recognition for a broad range of projects, including identity articulation, research and conceptual programming, print design and production, environmental signage and wayfinding systems, and exhibition and product design.
    In 1995 the studio released S,M,L,XL, a 1300-page compendium of projects and texts generated by a joint effort with Rem Koolhaas' Office for Metropolitan Architecture. In 1998, Mau wrote An Incomplete Manifesto of Growth which exemplified his beliefs, motivations and strategies. Life Style, a monograph on design culture and the work of the studio, was published in 2000.
    Recently Mau's studio has extended into dance performances, video installations, and the fields of architecture, urban planning, landscape design.

    Bruce Mau's Lecture
    The lecture was setup as dialogue, among Lee Bey of SOM my former professor in Architectural Thought, Stanley Tigerman the infamous one time director of UIC's school of Architecture who now runs Archeworks and frankly our closest mindset to Bruce Mau's. Lecture was held at the Art Institute as part of the opening for Chicago's Great Places and Spaces tours and lectures, going on now! And its all free!

    The lecture focused on design and how “Design” and designers need to stop focusing on the visual (as the current trend), graphic designers need to stop being trend monkeys and architects need to quit being just exterior decorators, the people that create the reality the public lives in need to start applying and arranging the way we think and exercise the concept of “design” around practical objectives through working by design economies, directing capacities to produce a reality. Here are some jotted down points which he addressed to the room of architects and urged us to take on this creed (which I think is incredibly forward thinking and thus why this man is one of my idols)

    -In terms of ecological design : we can either make money by getting there last or succeed by making it first

    -everything is now a city, there are only really zoning : globalization has now fully manifested the global city with zoning for “rural” “urban” “suburban” “natural”

    -Sustainability, sustainable architecture and design requires us to work at a higher resolution, and it is inevitable that eventually we will adapt this as the status quo, its already happening, Chicago is at the forefront of this movement in North America , Toronto is edging in and Bruce proposes a friendly competition to see which city can build and create most sustainable... (see first point)

    -The park is a license for stupidity (take over one place, make it nice, but trash everything else,) The little things grow to serve as model and we need to pay attention to the relationships between the many details of the spaces we inhabit.

    -As designers we need to think in a way that levels the playing field for all of us

    -Act as a critical mass

    -Dispose of the myth that everything is limitless, work by the ethics of reliability and interdependence

    -Design strategically with distributed capacities, become a social entrepenuer

    -Addressing the issue of property titles and affect on accessing the global market

    -Shining Path: designing infrastructure for circulation, liberating values to support context less entrepreneurs as in supporting the Peruvian peasant for his ingenuity

    -Backlash the real estate developers

    -Differences among opportunities for classes, people, etc are COLLAPSING not widening, access to global possibility is growing and we need to identify where the disparity is most pressing and apply our skills there first

    -Innovate through service, redesign the workflow to short circuit

    -work in the temporal dimension : How quickly can you move?

    -Work in more collaborative design efforts: cross medium, cross “designer” specialties, being able to work in a multitude of facets meaning you can access the best and spread the most potential

    -Build global sensitivity through your architecture and design, this is critical for global realization of identity and is limited by it as well


    The lecture was refreshing. I suggest anyone interested to pick up Massive Changes, which documents some of the most leading innovators in practical and realistic design and their products and moves that are here and now and being implemented. I was surprised there weren't more people but I suppose the optimism and sometimes utopia rhetoric of Mau hasn't caught on with the people currently monopolizing the field. Mau stresses that the people to carry through on responding and being proactive to the feedbacks of our reality lies no longer in his generation but in ours. And it is us, the youth and our children that have the opportunity to really affect the way we construct and build our reality and service the reality of others. It was a tall cool drink of water. Mau was way ahead and above Bey's and Tigerman's heads but alas most visionaries are.

    Being at this lecture helped me grow some faith from a diminishing state for this profession that I have devoted the last 6 year of my life to. Knowing that there are leaders who think in sync with my personal convictions is refreshing and a driving force. These are the kinds of people Id like to gain insight from.

    Edit... Well from posting this lecture across other boards and blogs Im getting quite the feeback, lots of "quack" comments and even links posted back to me that break down each and every single line of anything bruce mau has to say into rubbish. I never would have guessed that he drew such black and white reactions from people. Makes the whole phenomenon sortof intruiging... nevertheless, I think although he speaks with some uncommon choices in analogy or delivery, the fact that he draws such polarized reaction makes it something to pay attention to. Plus I find some of his holistic approaches pleasant. But to be honest I havent read or heard him enough to form a statment. Wasn't there a time when everyone despised Ghery?


    • i like Bruce, but was dissapointed with his huge SMLXL-like apologist text for Mori, the developer of Roppongi Hills in Tokyo. Basically Mau put together some pseudo research designed to show how Mori was justified in turning a slightly seedy part of Tokyo into a huge gated city, defended by a Jerde-designed supermall-cum-moat. The development does have some urban elements that improve the city, but it is now entirely privately owned and most areas are reserved for the very upper class.

      Not that Mau is responsible for the privatisation of public space, but the whole project goes against much of his own rhetoric, as demonstrated by your notes above.

      So, is he hypocrite or did he get taken in?

      May 23, 05 5:37 pm  · 

      well for him to be a hypcrite would allude to that his values would be unchanging, and i think or it seems like he is a man who learns from his own work and progress so perhaps he has just improved upon his own ideals? who know, if he doesnt practice what he preaches that is his own private value judgement but his ideas standing alone have alot of potential for at least the bit of inspiration. i am new to him myself.

      though your comment about his privatization of public space strikes a chord because of how adamant he was about getting across the idea that the park is an idea of stupidity? could this be alluding to some greater and more controlling perogative on the use of public space? who knows..i suppose we can only tell over time...

      tell you one thing though, it is a bit astonoshing, regardless whether you think he is the lick or just a loon, of how well he has wooed the chicago polititians and liberal architectural community. this is chicago, and the fact that he can be in cahoots with a stonewall like daley says alot about some type of his abilities

      May 23, 05 5:54 pm  · 

      no doubt about it he is a master salesman. That is one of the problems with his entire shpiel. I mean how much can you trust a man who makes his living spinning ideas that he doesn't actually believe...

      the idea that a park is licence for stupidity is pretty true unfortunately. It's ok to make a shithole around the park, long as we make up for it by making the park real nice, sort of thing. See it all the time, and then the park is crap too more often than not.

      It's a smart observation, nicely expressed if hardly an original thought. but what does he do next after making the declaration? Sounds a bit politicky, more flash than substance...I suspect he might do more than nothing, but ain't holding my breath yet. ;-)

      May 23, 05 9:11 pm  · 

      that was amazing....I love real architects. But where did he give the lecture?

      May 23, 05 10:59 pm  · 
      vado retro

      using the shining path as an analogy is fucking irresponsible.

      May 23, 05 11:32 pm  · 

      The lecture was given at the Art Insitute Auditorium part of Great Places & Spaces Weekend, it wasnt a vast turnout.

      ...and to vado retro.. can you elaborate how that analogy is irresponsible? im curious to know since im getting alot of mixed feedback from other sources about their opinions... seems like a good controversial figure

      May 24, 05 12:08 am  · 
      vado retro

      because the shining path were/are cold blooded killers that's why and if they ran across bruce mau or any yahoo that visits this website they would put a couple in the back of your head. so much for global responsiblity...

      May 24, 05 7:00 am  · 

      who or what are shining path?

      May 24, 05 8:08 am  · 

      and how would a terrorist group figure into bruce mau's speech? couldnt it have been a coincidence he used the phrase as an analogy or?

      May 24, 05 8:10 am  · 

      why the religious analogies paulina? do you really need to 'grow some faith' and treat book tour authors like prophets? the guy is completely willing do to obscene, grossly capitalistic and private things to public spaces--just to address his alleged and avowed interest in public life. he is little more than an very aware decorator of our current condition. the guy desprately wants and needs an ambitious social project. does he talk about the right stuff, sometimes. does he do the right stuff, rarely. don't confuse the individuals in massive change and the grad students who put together massive change with bruce.

      May 24, 05 2:47 pm  · 

      "Shining Path: designing infrastructure for circulation, liberating values to support context less entrepreneurs as in supporting the Peruvian peasant for his ingenuity "

      shining path = sendero luminoso, peruvian terrorist group or people's liberation army depending on your political point of view. using the peruvian peasant reference makes this an unlikely coincidence.

      i have no idea how it got into his speach but it definitely seems like the phrase was used deliberately.

      May 24, 05 3:46 pm  · 

      im not about to follow a sociopath to "grow some faith" i meant the phrase as describing that albeit controversial its interesting to hear something a bit different being said, its refreshing as compared to the one directional rhetoric you hear at school or at work. religious analogies? maybe? i wasnt aware they were coming off religiously, i just try to see the most i can learn out of any situation bad or good or anything someone has to say for that matter, maybe due to my other recent readings im resorting to this type of terminology,

      I am well aware of the fact that he has groups of people who have worked on his exhibitions and books, i am aware of a level of hypocrisy here as well but nonetheless that is what makes his tactics and value system all the more interesting because he is able to present it so. im not stating that he is neither wrong or right, and perhaps i was a bit too blindingly optomistic but how couldnt you initally be, after you hear such a speech that prompts you to feel something other than frustration.

      thank you for your insight as well. spreading this lecture note across other avenues im getting such strong reactions. its actually kindof cool and fulfilling to discuss these sorts of things =)

      May 24, 05 4:07 pm  · 

      Aml : now that I think about it he did make alot of mention of Peruvian entrepenuers when he was composing analogies about the way business is run. The Shining Path existing in Peru... I wonder why such a deliberate reference though...

      May 24, 05 4:08 pm  · 

      paulina, i find his 'manifesto' inspiring regardless on whether he actually applies what he preaches or not. i have no insight on how 'true' he is to his ideas, and i think to a point it doesn't matter- it matters more how his lecture has sparked ideas and motivated you. it's good to be aware if he's just a bag of air, though, and that's when this feedback becomes useful.

      the shining path reference is weird... you never know though, sometimes these things just slip into one's consciousness. maybe he was talking to a peruvian friend in the morning and learned interesting things about peruvian entreprenuers, and the shining path phrase was just an association of ideas. doesn't mean he's a maoist with a preference for terror tactics.

      May 24, 05 6:14 pm  · 

      Aml, thank you versing your understanding in such a relative manner. i couldn't have said it better myself and the support is welcome. i suppose watching Bruce Mau's local invovlement over time will be interesting as towards the end of the lecture he boasted that he was to be spending significant time with Mayor Daley.

      May 24, 05 7:13 pm  · 
      vado retro

      bad analogy we'll leave it at that. isnt he going to have something at moca this summer?

      May 24, 05 8:52 pm  · 

      One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.

      May 25, 05 1:01 am  · 

      Block this user

      Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

    • Back to Entry List...
  • ×Search in:

Affiliated with:

Authored by:

  • Paulina

Other blogs affiliated with University of Illinois at Chicago:

Recent Entries