Lian (Harvard GSD M.Arch.I)

I graduated in 2013, but still blog here once in a while.

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    "Psychoanalysis with twenty people on the couch at once"

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Sep 29, '09 7:40 PM EST

    Oh goody. Preston Scott Cohen is grilling Thom Mayne in Piper tonight. He asked him about style. Mayne, presenting himself as someone who solves problems and steers a process without a priori formal notions, said "Oh, I don't think about style. I'm very ambivalent with aesthetics." PSC said "But why does this building (the Cooper Union project) look like that? Can you tell us about that?" Then Mayne said "it has to be that way. That's the only way it can be." PSC said "Oh really." He then proceeded to crit the facade's changing nature, from volume to a surface of one kind to another (folded, cut, etc.), and said "now this is voluntary." He also described the facade as "hiking the skirt" and asked "now, why do you hike the skirt?" And so on. He was drawing on the facade to make his point. He is not letting Mayne off the hook and I love it. It's the opposite of the kid-glove, being nice to the 80 year old man treatment that Mr. Gehry got last week.

    [Addendum as of October 2: On a more fun note, I forgot to add that later in the discussion, partly in response to a question from the audience about a project that the questioner perceived as "sensual," Mayne said something to the effect of "that wasn't it at all; I don't think about sex." All I have to say about that is that you should never trust a man who claims not to think about sex (or an architect, about aesthetics.)



    • b3tadine[sutures]

      sounds familiar. i was at a Columbia lecture in 1992 when Ken Frampton ripped in to Thom there as well, boy that was fun.

      Sep 29, 09 7:55 pm  · 

      Architects are way too mean to each other.

      Sep 29, 09 11:22 pm  · 

      did PSC also submit a proposal for the new Cooper Union by any chance?

      Sep 30, 09 5:21 am  · 

      It is so easy to criticize and too often criticism comes across as superior knowledge.

      Is there a public archive of lectures like this for the public?

      Sep 30, 09 10:58 pm  · 
      Lian Chikako Chang

      Hi all! Thanks for your comments. I should clarify that PSC was not taking a mean attitude at all. It seems that he and Thom Mayne are friends. Besides that, though, isn't it fair game for an architect who builds things for the public realm--particularly a very good and prominent architect like Mayne--to be asked to speak about what he does and to say where they stand on these kinds of important questions?

      Oct 2, 09 1:21 am  · 

      So grilling means friendly chit-chat? have to remember that at my next review...

      Oct 2, 09 5:26 am  · 
      drums please, Fab?

      anyone who says '... it has to be that way. That's the only way it can be.' deserves to be grilled.

      Oct 2, 09 10:30 am  · 
      Kevin Griendling

      I was actually just at that building the other day. I had heard before that there was a lot of opposition to the project before it had been built because of its boisterous facade. I feel, however, that the building (at least at night) sunk into the urban fabric quite well enough to not be an eye-sore.

      I wonder about why Mayne engaged the building on the ground plane the way he did, because it offers one too many ramps for nuisance kids to skateboard down and many facets for bums to curl up and go unnoticed for days... who knows if they are dead...

      Oct 3, 09 2:26 am  · 

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About this Blog

This blog was most active from 2009-2013. Writing about my experiences and life at Harvard GSD started out as a way for me to process my experiences as an M.Arch.I student, and evolved into a record of the intellectual and cultural life of the Cambridge architecture (and to a lesser extent, design/technology) community, through live-blogs. These days, I work as a data storyteller (and blogger at in San Francisco, and still post here once in a while.

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