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    thom mayne

    By fays.panda
    Dec 9, '09 8:18 PM EST

    Thom Mayne came for an evening lecture at the AA, after nearly 25 years of absence. He went through a good number of his new projects in a concise manner, and, in short, my (naive) opionion leaving the lecture was that it's this kind of person that makes you feel good about being an architecture student. I have always been a fan of Morphosis' work (Mayne never failed to use the collaborative -we-), and it was a pleasure hearing him attempting to tie his life's work under a coherent umbrella of recurring concepts.

    As an introductory note that Brett Steele referred to him as the "most plastic of American architects" in the last couple of decades, which I thought was true, especially with the images Mayne showed, but I also have to note that with that description, other names also came up in my head (rick joy, steven holl, etc).

    He framed his work around two recurring themes, the crucial role of organization, namely organizing multiple systems (sometimes referred to as unique forces in collisions) and attempting to put the "pencils down" to critically observe the results of their interaction, and the second theme being the augmented landscape, the exploitation of land, the idea of active building/active ground (perhaps best employed in his Diamond Ranch Highschool).

    References to James Stirling were repeatedly made, as Mayne repeatedly claimed Stirling was a huge influence on his work.

    He touched a little bit on how, early on, the work they did attempted to negate aesthetics, but retracted that one learns that an object (building) is so tied to its physiognomy, and I found the personofication of architecture at that moment very lucid, but continued on to say that aesthetics should not be a central discussion in his work. Honestly, I vote in his favor on this point. I think a discssion about his aethetics is irrelevant, so what if a Morphosis building looks like a Morphosis building? It is much fruitful that the discussion revolves about his use of multiple organizational/formal systems, and the potnetial found between his mitigation of his "pencils down" approach and a critical response to that approach and the resultant work.

    A discussion about the poetics of working included how the interest from reading someone's work, and building on it, lies in the misreading, if not the blatant misreading. It's true to a certain extent, especially when literature is involved. Defining mistakes as a territory of investigation could be rewarding in the long run.

    some quotes from the lecture:

    "architecture is not a discriminatory act," targeted at the interaction between the multiple systems employed within a project.

    "The distance between desire and reality is diminishing." This one kept me a little uncomfortable, I'm not sure why.

    "I'm not going to make leaps."

    It was an interesting lecture to attend, and while sometimes I felt a little disappointed with some of his statements, I have to admit that I left the lecture thinking that it is enchanting being in this field, especially with seeing someone like him with a long career, still enthusiastic by his own work in a childish way, and appearing a little confused. Whether that's true or not, it honestly does not matter to me, his work speaks for itself, more times than not, and theres something to learn from it. One thing though, I wanted him to speak a little about architectural education, but that did not materialize.


    • Paulie

      Interesting, Mayne gave a lecture at UCLA a little while ago that touched on similar topics, in terms of what his work is about. It can be viewed here:

      Dec 10, 09 1:42 am

      Thanks for the summary and review. Even though I don't typically like the final product of his (their) work, I agree with a lot of what you have written.

      Interesting quote on desire and reality, and I loved the idea of misreading others' work.

      Dec 10, 09 5:27 pm

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