Harvard GSD Landscape Architecture (Andrew)

  • anchor

    Mayne says 'fuck' at the GSD

    By anti
    Oct 2, '09 11:42 AM EST

    Lian already wrote about Thom's lecture, but there were a lot of items I wanted to elaborate on (feel free to chime in Lian).

    "My work is loaded with purposeful accidents"
    Thom returned to the subject of "Quasi-autogenerative" techinques in his work over and over again. He talked about how he was "interested in developing an architecture that is beyond [his] own capabiliites" - that he wasn't interested in any form or architecture that he could imagine - because if he could imagine it, it wasn't new. He talked about how this was in part a self serving agenda as he aged (he is 65) so that he didn't get caught in a style that became outdated. I think this idea of only being interested in what you can't imagine a very interesting line of thought. I recently re-watched the documentry on the painter Agnes Martin where she talks about 'painting with her back to the world' and waiting with quite mind for inspiration to come to her. Though wildly differnent both Thom and Agnes are after images/ideas/forms that are outside their experience base. I need to think more on this, but Im interested.

    An expanded exchange between Scott Cohen & Mayne:
    SC: Why do you lift your skirt at Cooper but crumple under your own weight at Caltrans?
    TM: You are way more analytic than I am. I don't analyze during creation.
    SC: If you weren't you and you visited the Cooper - What do you see when you look at it?
    TM: I see a 1000 problems that weren't solved.
    SC: No, but really, what does this (drawing on screen) shape mean to you?
    TM: I have very little interest in analyzing it now - it just is - its over.
    SC: I'm asking you what it means as a building.
    TM: I don't care what it means.
    -----Mayne absolutely refused to talk in any way about what his work signified or what his forms meant. Yet his presentation was totally differnt from Ghery's. Frank essentially stuck to the "aww, shucks" kind of pseudo-humility and pseudo-anti intellectual character whose business analysis was sharp but whose architecture analysis ended at "funny buildings" & "wavy buildings". Thom, while refusing to talk about meaning, was very deliberate and engaging when it came to discussing intent - hyper programmaticly driven. His process was "working with the mechanics that are appropriate for the problems that need to be solved." Im sure there is more to unpack here...

    Other quick notes:
    - The first question was a long rambling archi-speak assemblage of words that I didn't understand. And neither did Thom - he sat there in silence for a bit and then looked at Preston and said "I don't know what he is talking about." Preston said "hes talking about FIELD CONDITION" (in an amused tone). Thom then responded with this gem- "Field condition....that's a very hip word. What was the question?"

    - I knew of Thom's work only in a limited capacity before the lecture. I knew the general story of his work and had seen the Diamond Ranch School in publication but that was about it. I was never that impressed with the ideas or the work. But this was one of the best lectures I have seen here at the GSD so far. Also, I don't know who he uses for his photography but the work shown in the presentation was fantastic.

    - "If you don't set goals which are unattainable, then you need to ramp up your goals." -TM


    • bucku

      is this lecture available online anywhere?


      Oct 2, 09 12:06 pm  · 

      thanks for offering some more insights in this lecture, sounds very interesting...although Thom Mayne talking about being interested in developing architecture beyond his capabilities doesn't make much sense to me, you can clearly see a lineage in his works, nothing unimaginable here I guess, especially not for the architect himself. Loved his remark on field conditions though, pulling the senior citizen response from the magic hat.

      Oct 2, 09 1:52 pm  · 
      liberty bell

      I've got a huge crush on Mayne already, and everything I've read about this lecture makes it all the stronger. He's dreamy.

      On a more relevant note, anti, I'm a huge, longtime fan of Agnes Martin, and I've never even thought to compare the two before. I need to go back to some of my Martin catalogues and look at her work and Mayne's work in tandem - it's a really lovely idea.

      Oct 2, 09 1:59 pm  · 

      Randomized - Scott Cohen was also trying to establish a lineage, saying at one point "no one but you would make that shape." But Mayne was saying (as far as I understand it) that we was feeding programatic information into generative scripting which then produced shapes that he sat back and acted like a director/curator rather than the sole creative artist. His point was that he didn't have a preconceived napkin sketch that he tried to make real - (a la Frank).

      Oct 2, 09 2:07 pm  · 

      Bucku- I think it was recorded and should likely make its way to the web. Search the GSD site, Im havent watched any of them online yet.

      Liberty - Have you seen the documentary? She was 86 when it was filmed and still crankin out paintings. I hated her work with a passion until a couple years ago when I saw it in person at the Dia Beacon and now she is one of my favorite artists. The paintings just vibrate with presence.

      Oct 2, 09 2:15 pm  · 

      Good for Thom!

      and Yes his works has inspired many architects and students way before Diamond Ranch, I would admit, this is when I began to loose interest in the Work.

      great piece

      Oct 2, 09 8:04 pm  · 

      i've been to a thom mayne lecture before, in the mid-90's, and he was already passionate in challenging how he experienced his buildings, and his process of design...(lots of phenomenology talk then) and the man was truly passionate...anti, really enjoyed your additional musings as well..

      on to Agnes Martin - i am also a fan of her work (could it be an architectural affinity??? i always thought of her paintings as staring at a beautiful concrete wall as the temperature drops - don't know why, but they take me there...) - where can i find this documentary!?

      Oct 2, 09 10:26 pm  · 

      I enjoy TM lectures very much. I have seen him speak several times since the late 90's, and each lecture is always a refreshing updated view of his architectural and urban design thoughts. When I was in undergrad back in the late 90's at USC, Morphosis' projects were spewing left and right from our instructors mouths. We were told to look and analyze their modes of representation and execution of ideas. While I do enjoy many of their current projects, it is the older ones i feel are very raw and tested architectural conventions of living, working, and playing. If you can get a hold of their first monograph, Building and Projects, Vol. 1, you'll see what I mean. Wonderfully designed by Lorraine Wild.

      Oct 2, 09 10:38 pm  · 

      Here you go:

      Oct 3, 09 1:48 pm  · 

      Nice lecture, interesting discussion... I saw Thom Mayne speak once, and I think what's interesting about him I think is he is able to move between something like talking about his art and then talking about *real* things so seamlessly (the factors to get the thing built)... In that way, he can talk to different kinds of audiences, and he understands who his message is for.

      And he sort of demystifies the thing: doesn't pretend that there is some kind of overarching genious plan behind the work, but explains some pretty amazing end product as the result of a real working process, what we did, what happened that made the thing the way it is... Like Gehry, he talks about his work in a pretty *real* way, cuts the BS jargon...

      There's 1. the practice side, and 2. the artistic side of the conversations, and it seems like you need to be able to know who you are talking to in order to sell to your audience...

      The part about: not wanting to come at it with a preconceived idea or diagram, but instead working through it as a reaction to forces during the design and construction process... We always seem to want to have a clear diagram of what we are doing, but he doesn't seem to want that...

      I'm not sure I can or want to work the way he does, I think that's a personal thing, but I like when he talks about practice: it's sort of inspiring and I think accurate the way he talks about how architects work... Working with constraints vs. working with freedom, etc.

      Oct 3, 09 4:36 pm  · 

      I haven't watched the webcast yet but refusing to talk about meaning at the same time insisting everything is all hyper-constrained intent (Lian quoted him saying "it has to be that way. That's the only way it can be.") is pretty BS jargon, speaking as someone who has used the same argument.

      I find it especially odd, because the Cooper Union Building seems like one of Morphosis' most diagrammatic buildings, in terms of approaching the design with a preconceived 'napkin-sketch' idea. Having spent some time in the building I really can't see much of the formal as having been driven by 'generative scripting'; panels and affects and assemblies maybe -the net thing was almost certainly GenerativeComponents- but only as secondary operations.

      Oh, and Mayne says 'fuck' everywhere, it makes him sound maverick-y. The old ladies at the Chicago Architecture Center loved it.

      Nov 6, 09 11:32 am  · 

      For the record, the building he did at Cooper doesn't have bulletin boards within it. The students tape their notices on the walls. The stair that is the central feature of the space is hideous and unpleasant to occupy and use, treacherous is the best way to describe it. EPIC FAIL.

      Nov 6, 09 9:28 pm  · 

      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:

  • anti

Other blogs affiliated with Harvard University:

Recent Entries