Is Michael Maltzan the greatest American architect actively practicing?


Yay or nay.  I vote yes.

May 13, 13 11:28 pm
boy in a well

Shirley, you can't be serious.

I do a spit take at all your topics.

May 14, 13 12:53 am

Who then?

May 14, 13 8:13 am
boy in a well

mikey's hot, its just that you sound like his mother.

May 14, 13 8:45 am

what makes this guy any good?  foam core models?  the part where he has essays on his website, which i didn't read but i suspect are full of intellectual mental masturbation bullshit that has no place in the real practice of architecture?  is it because he lives in LA?

he says this about LA:

perhaps the most real place I had ever known or been exposed to in my life

wtf.  plastic boobs count as "real" now?

May 14, 13 9:20 am

I'll admit, I've never heard of the guy and his website isn't doing him any favors.  That has got to be one of the worst websites to showcase projects that I've ever seen; you can barely see the images! The website creator (I'm assuming with his blessing) chose to write essays about the each project and used his images like a desktop background. 

Also, google images isn't helping this guy out as most of the stuff looks like marketing and the unique designs don't even look like they exist (which makes me laugh at curkram's comment just ahead about Los Angeles).  No way he supersedes Thom Mayne, Michael Graves, Richard Meier, or even David Childs.


You could say they're American, but I didn't included them because they were born outside of America... Frank Gehry (born in Toronto), I.M. Pei(born in China), Cesar Pelli (Argentina), Daniel Libeskind (Poland)

May 14, 13 10:29 am
chatter of clouds

is this what Orhan was talking about there ?

May 14, 13 10:43 am
( o Y o )

No way he supersedes Thom Mayne, Michael Graves, Richard Meier, or even David Childs ... Frank Gehry (born in Toronto), I.M. Pei(born in China), Cesar Pelli (Argentina), Daniel Libeskind (Poland).

Comment dit-on en anglais, "riant mon âne éteintes"?

May 14, 13 12:37 pm
wurdan freo

I vote Shop Architects. This dude is lame! I mean L-ame!

May 14, 13 12:58 pm

Ricardo Scofidio, Brad Cloepfil, Steven Holl, Thom Mayne, Tod Williams, Billie Tsien, Jeanne Gang, Stephen Kieran, James Timberlake, Meier, Graves, Venturi, WG Clark.

These are some other American born architects. I'm missing a bunch. So what do you mean by greatest? I tend to think of greatness as something happening over a long period of time, versus avant-garde how I would describe Maltzan. Are we also assuming that Meier, Graves, Venturi are not practicing. What about Mayne? And that partners like TWBT,  Kieran Timberlake or Shop are excluded? I guess this is just opinion, in which case I vote Gang.

May 14, 13 1:54 pm

I had never heard of that guy, looked at the website and I did like some of his projects. However, I like the work by Will Bruder, Rick Joy, Wendell Burnette waaaaaay more than his. (As those are american architects' work I have actually EXPERIENCED and can talk for myself.)


I had a question for everyone critiquing here, have you actually been in one of M. Maltzan's projects? If so, what do you think of it/them? Its a whole different thing to talk about a project after seeing its web profile and glamour shots rather than being or living in it... 

May 14, 13 2:09 pm

Anyone who thinks that LA isn't the most important city for contemporary US architecture is dumb.

May 14, 13 4:53 pm

Rick Joy is great, though.

May 14, 13 4:57 pm

Add Peter Bohlin, Tom Kundig, Craig Dykers...

May 14, 13 5:24 pm

Jean: "laughing my ass off."  I'm unimpressed with your list.

May 14, 13 5:37 pm

Anyone who thinks that LA isn't the most important city for contemporary US architecture is dumb.

this only makes sense to people who think mr. maltzan is the greatest architect in the us.

here is a link to a wikipedia article of questionable credibility.

LA is missing from that list.  Kansas City is on there, though.

May 14, 13 5:56 pm

I have been inside some of his work, really really really good execution. Also great spatial explorations. I am not sure who is the greatest practicing American architect right now. However I think his work is excellent. His work is better experienced in person then looked at in magazines or on websites.... but I guess that is how Americans judge architecture? 

May 14, 13 6:02 pm

LA?! srsly? mods?

You have GOT to be kidding.

May 14, 13 6:36 pm

i like maltzan's website.  i think the presentation works really well and it's beautifully curated.

LA has neutra, 1920s and 1930s work in hollywood in hancock park, crafstman homes in pasadena, projects by coop himmelblau, birthplace of mayne and gehry's practices, barbara bestor out east, greg lynn, maltzan (who i still think will end up being the greatest american architect of our generation, once his stuff starts getting built), a lovely collection of frank lloyd wright works, modernist towers on wilshire, palm springs modernism (sorry, it's LA, if anyone begs to differ), googie architecture on the west side, johnston marklee, neil denari, eric owen moss and othr culver city practices (including why - although i'm just tepid about their work).  LA is such a piece of trash city but the LA basin is so beautiful and there are so many interesting things being built everywhere.  i think cities with troubled urbanism make for good architecture.  i feel similarly about mexico city.

in conclusion, i repeat: it's the best american city for contemporary american architecture.

May 14, 13 6:43 pm

there's also moneo's cathedral downtown, the new and old lacma, the new and old moca, 70s architecture by LAX (think of all those perfect bar scenes from jackie brown), the watts towers, dingbat housing, the getty, and late 80s early 90s residential projects by gehry and his proteges.  yes: LA is the place to be!

May 14, 13 6:54 pm

"in conclusion, i repeat: it's the best american city for self-indulgent crap masquerading as style."

There. Fixed that for you.

May 14, 13 7:06 pm

you're not even offering alternatives, hater.

May 14, 13 7:07 pm

Michael who?  sorry I've never heard of this dude, so MAYBE

May 14, 13 8:26 pm
boy in a well


that's some serious west coast hatin y'all!

In conclusion, I have no choice but to re-re-repeat: LA must therefurther and henceforthwith be The Place, as a particular subset of California's Generally Better Than Elsewhere-ness, the pockets of Hmm, Not Bad notwithstanding due to the overwhelming majority of Good God, Dorothy, Let's Get the Hell Out of Here.

Mods Love LA.

May 14, 13 8:57 pm

This is America: it's all self-indulgent crap masquerading as style.

The only difference is that in LA they are less pretentious about it - they're less inclined to pretend that it's NOT crap.

May 14, 13 10:29 pm

No one beats Dick Busch, so fuck y'all's. 

May 15, 13 12:11 am
boy in a well

^ there's just soooo many things wrong with that.

high fives and hot showers are in order.

... uh,

or not.

May 15, 13 2:31 am

how about "best architect I've never heard of?"

May 15, 13 12:40 pm

For all of you who haven't checked out his work:

Nice mix of work to sift through.  The SF State Performing Arts center is really impressive.  As are the New Carver Apartments (that's right, affordable housing), which Iwan Baan photographed.

Even his foamcore and site models are impressive.

May 15, 13 2:47 pm

So, SeriousQuestion, a serious question: How much is Maltzan paying you promote him and his work in online forums?

May 16, 13 5:49 pm
boy in a well

you don't have to pay your mother, you just have to teach her to use the internet.

May 16, 13 6:19 pm

i work on commission, darling.  seriously, though, i thought this would turn into an actual conversation about american architecture but it's just revealed how little people on this board actually know about contemporary work.  cesar pelli as one of the great american architects?  lol.  archinect is a sad shadow of its former self.

May 16, 13 6:43 pm

I struggle to find significant, engaging work by American architects.  Possibly Allied Works, officeda or whatever their current incarnation is, Vincent James, Trahan.  I am hoping Johnston Marklee and xten architecture can blossom in LA along with Marmol Radziner. 

Unfortunately, even with Europe's full on embrace of austerity, that is where the best work is being produced.  As always.

May 16, 13 8:12 pm

Yeah, the models are cool, but with a quick, brief look, you realize there is an incredible indebtedness to OMA / Rem Koolhaas (which is a hybrid post-Mies kind of thing). Almost everything is indebted to OMA. That's not bad--in fact, I sincerely appreciate it. Hundreds of others do it! I want to start doing it more! But to concisely answer your question, SeriousQuestion, I have to say that OMA is still practicing and therefore they are the greatest. They have an American office, so I'm counting them in. 

May 17, 13 12:44 am
boy in a well

Seems rather like someone spent some gsd time with Preston Scott Cohen, but ditched all the esoteric drafting.

May 17, 13 1:42 am

I see a lot of early Gehry kind of thinking in his work.

May 17, 13 1:59 am
chatter of clouds

his inner ciy arts project looks really pleasant and is somewhere between being simple enough to relate to and complex enough to be interesting and lively. from the pics i suspect it pays its dues to the context. the new carver apartments are not whimsical in form - read the text. then theres the fresno musuem where the building is halfway between being very much a " bulding" and a formal expression  of the journeys within it and on it and below it. theres that little taut jenhua ministructure...

there are some things i dont relate to. for example the pirellire design. i dont mind the facade design but why must the overall structures stil be identified as boxes? the visual pull of the -what do will we call them? skewed brise soleil? suggests that the boxes should be affected by this pull and not remain so innert. i feel that what has worked for him in other designs - bringing together a recognizable formal massing and an off kilter force to act upon it - was  not so successful. then theres that bridge in relation to the other structures...and my worry is that the space below will be dismal. and i dont know anout that nappa valley ranbow apartments project...what with the sombre bulk of it, it looks disheartening.

but, generally, their good work seems to reflect a lively and fun practice with many ideas.  i dont know about "greatest" and i could care less, but theseprojects looks like they might be liked and even loved within their setting....(i loved that little loop at the end of their st petersburg pier creating what looks like a public and intimate space.)...

May 17, 13 4:24 am

Its a sad commentary on the profession of architecture when "criticism" consists of opinions on style while ignoring function and substance.

May 17, 13 8:43 am
boy in a well

No its not.

May 17, 13 8:20 pm

I agree with Orhan and tammuz.

Here's a twist: "In the future, everyone will be the greatest for fifteen minutes."

Like tiorted relates above, the work overall has a discernable genealogy. For example, in the SF State Performing Arts center we see OMA's Casa Musica on top of the stretched promenade of OMA's Dutch Embassy, Berlin all planned out like H&deM's Walker Art Center. Likewise, the New Carver Apartments is very much Aalto's Bremen Apartment Building "come full circle."

In some ways, the work reminds me of early Arquitectonica were one could enjoy picking out the precedents and learn from how the precedents were further 'played' with.

In 2000, I imagined a title, Subsequent Steps: The Architecture of Reenactment, and now I'd put the work of Michael Maltzan in that book.

Again referencing tiorted above, "That's not bad--in fact, I sincerely appreciate it. Hundreds of others do it! I want to start doing it more!"

May 18, 13 11:36 am

The work is OK looks good in Sothern California, not a universal style, that can adapt well to other climates or cultures kind of sterile but in a serene hygienic way

I think the most exciting designer today is Calatrava, followed by Tadao Ando.

May 18, 13 2:33 pm
I worked there. The answer is NO. I would say Thom Mayne is.
May 19, 13 1:01 am

Maltzan is good, but he needs  bigger built projects, international work too.

May 19, 13 1:50 am
chatter of clouds

fherr001, why would you say Thom Mayne is the "greatest" or even better than Maltzan? I'm genuinely itnerested in knowing why you think so. is it because Mayne's reputation extends globally,  that he received the Pritzker and that he is part of an elite club of architects with roots in the 19-eighties?

Morphosis' work puzzles me to be honest. there is a facelessness and nonchalance to his architecture that i find very charismatic and  very brave. the earthy and grity combinations of concrete, metal and glass...this industrial-theatrical (really, sometimes even melodramatic) vocabulary of form housing far fetched spaces posing the question: to waht degree did the architect fit the spaces within the aesthetically determined/located formal elements? what does he prioritize most?

i would like to compare him to gehry...but with gehry there is a clear development of wraped surfaces, a clear rationality - their exuberance is tempered by the nature of the building and by what the client wants. but morphosis' work, it is difficult to draw out a scale ...can anyone help?

or...i'm having a thought here...that of the eighties 'incomprehensible' architects (Zaha hadid, libeskind, Gehry..etc) , Morphosis have remained true to the eighties spirit of intractable theatricality. but when it comes to looks bad.    

May 19, 13 7:36 am
chatter of clouds

oops, wrong topic :o)

May 19, 13 7:40 am

After looking at the website, my vote is.........


A resounding NO.

May 20, 13 10:27 am

Also he needs a better renderer.

May 20, 13 10:32 am

Are you kidding me? The answer is a resounding NO

there is hardly anyone in LA who is world class !

Best American firm/designer is perhaps NADAAA/Nader Tehrani !  Maybe?

May 20, 13 8:22 pm

I think his works are beautiful.

But titling it America's greatest architect is little cheesy...why need such title?

May 20, 13 10:02 pm
boy in a well

(because its his mother posting)

May 21, 13 12:34 pm

dam spike, you dumb troll.


May 22, 13 12:33 am

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