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March 23, 2005

Thom Mayne/Quinlan Terry

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

As I'm sure you've read, the architecture world's most prestigious award, the Pritzker Prize, has been given to Thom Mayne, an L.A. architect known for 1) not having been able to build much until recently; and for 2) the aggressive, tearing-it-down/blowing-it-up quality of the work he has been able to build.

Here's an L.A. Times article about Mayne, with a link to a slideshow of Mayne's work. It's a surprisingly frank piece:

There is nothing traditionally beautiful or explicitly welcoming about his designs.

"I'm interested in conflict and confrontation," Mayne said.

His buildings, often cloaked in canted or folded metal screens, giving them a dramatic silver-gray cast, have a muscular presence. They use fragmented forms to express the anomie of contemporary life — and of sprawling, centerless Los Angeles in particular ...

Although Mayne tends to describe his architecture as progressive and optimistic, others see its forms as alienating, even nihilistic. To the walkways suspended above the playground of the Science Center School in Exposition Park, finished last year, Mayne added metal screens that from certain angles resemble blades, their chiseled edges pointing straight down over kindergartners' heads.

Bring on the anomie! How strange that mainstream architecture endorses the work of someone who builds as though traditional beauty and comfort need to be renounced.

I couldn't help noticing how many of Mayne's buildings are public buildings: courthouses, Federal buildings, schools. Which means, of course, that your tax dollars and my tax dollars are subsidizing architecture that's found by many taxpayers to be alienating and off-putting. Wouldn't it be lovely if there were someone we could not only protest to, but vote out of office?

But what strikes me most as I read about Mayne is the '60s-generation quality, both of his work and of the man. (I've never visited any of his buildings in person and I've never met the man. Still, why not take a few swings?) Mayne's work attacks the rigidities of International Modernism but only to arrive at a more fragmented kind of modernism. Mayne himself is eager to speak about his divorced parents, his years in psychoanalaysis, and the influence of such '60s icons as the Kennedys and Black Power on his thinking. To my mind, his architecture expresses a deeply-held, sputtering-crybaby conviction that someone ought to pay for his miseries. Too bad that someone turns out to be us.

In the photos that accompany this Metropolis visit with Mayne from 2003, the skin-tearing, eye-poking quality of his work is plain to see. (Am I the only person who finds that the typical Mayne building looks like a kitchen appliance with half its shell torn off?) So is the grandstanding, self-adoring, high-pitched personal psychodrama. It's the '60s all over again, and not at its best.

Some excerpts from Metropolis:

Mayne did build several small projects--mostly homes and restaurants--for the architectural cognoscenti, but, he says, this time was immensely frustrating. He would scream at clients and became famous for his explosive temper. "None of my clients would recommend me," he says. "At the beginning of your work, you're defining who you are artistically. It's intensely confrontational and radical" ...

Mayne may have been the darling of architecture's in-crowd, but he couldn't get the large public projects that would allow him to engage a broader audience. "I shouldn't have been doing cafés and restaurants at 45 years old," he says. "I could have been president of the United States." By then his architectural vision was well developed and powerful, and he had calmed considerably. ("I was a raging maniac until five years of shrink," he says.) ...

His father abandoned the family early, so it was just him and his mom and his little brother. Mayne's mother was a pianist who didn't make much money, and she refused to drive a car. So, he says, they were trapped--a cultured family in a neighborhood without culture. Mayne was an angry, difficult kid. "I was a terror," he says. "In the hall or the principal's office all the time" ...

[The article's author accompanies Mayne on a visit to a high school Mayne designed. One student tells Mayne he doesn't like the building.] "It just looks all...at first I thought it was a penitentiary," the [student] says.

Mayne can't contain himself: "Penitentiary?" He leans in toward the kid, holding his head in exasperation. "I worked so hard. We tried to get rid of all the fences. I think it's horrible when schools look like penitentiaries. That's what the school I went to looked like. I hated it. I want a school that makes you guys dream, man. We worked so hard to make this thing look like it flies." He stretches his long arm and shakes his hand like a bird flying. "I wanted you to think: if I can do it, you can do it."

Without a beat, the penitentiary critic says, "You put too many stairs. Get here in the morning and after practice, climbing all over, man." He laughs. "It's a workout, all those stairs."

"Like it or hate it," [Mayne] says. "Doesn't matter." Mayne wants students to see that this building does not "accept the nature of what a school is supposed to be today--the immense ordinariness. It's trying to do something. It proves as illegitimate this reality that people are constructing."

It's also a personal manifesto--an attack on "the resistance to my dreams, my whole life," Mayne says. "I'm a fucking dreamer, and I was always told I couldn't do it. But here it is. It's not perfect, but it's as good as I could do, and it's here. And you could do it. Don't let anybody tell you, 'You can't do it.' That's their problem" ...

[Mayne] loves arguing with government bureaucrats who don't know much about architecture. "They find me stubborn or obstinate or whatever," he says. "I'm going, 'No, no, no. I'm here to work with you, but I'm not here to pander to you. This is a good thing: out of the conflict will come some sort of resolution'." ...

[Mayne was asked by a magazine to create a proposal for the WTC site. Mayne submitted a super-subversive design. When the author challenged him ...] Mayne's answer surprised me. The average person's understanding of his projects is "irrelevant," he told me. "There's layers and layers of ideas that go into a piece of work. It can be engaged at many levels. Probably most people are engaged at a very direct level: how it affects them. Others will recognize that there's an organizational or conceptual tissue." What matters, he says, is that the thing be built and that the people of New York interact with it and be provoked and altered by the space.

Poor, frustrated Thom Mayne! Hey, what do you say we tithe ourselves so that Thom Mayne can have an easier time expressing himself?

The website of the firm Mayne heads, Morphosis, displays many images of his work. This is another easy place to sample his work.


Terry's Richland Riverside

Three years ago, partly in response to the avant-gardist orthodoxy of the Pritzker Prize, the Driehaus Prize was created to recognize traditionalist architects. The first Driehaus went to the beyond-brilliant Leon Krier; the second went to the magnificent Demetri Porphyrios. This year the Driehaus was awarded to England's Quinlan Terry -- the most reactionary of all the New Classicists. After eyeballing photographs of Thom Mayne's buildings, I find myself thinking that "reactionary" doesn't sound so bad. I'm finding that it sounds a little like it might mean "comfortable" and "welcoming."

Here's the website of Quinlan Terry's firm.

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at March 23, 2005




Comments

I've been trying to adequately sum up my thoughts on Mayne since the Prize was announced, and I've come up short. This post does it for me quite swimmingly. Thanks.

For what it's worth, here's the comment I posted to CityComfortsBlog as my initial reaction:

"I've never been to the site, but every photo of the Diamond Ranch High School that I've seen makes it look like a re-education camp in a sci-fi movie.

Considering the way schools are run these days, though, perhaps that's the point. At least it's a departure from the jailhouse/cellblock style typically utilized over the past four decades."

Posted by: Nick on March 23, 2005 07:18 PM



Holy cow, does that guy sound like a boor. You wanna grab him by his lapels and say, "Hey pal, it's possible to 'get' your work and still think it sucks." "Like it or hate it. Doesn't matter." What an a-hole.

I first saw Diamond Ranch High School in the movie "Orange County" and I had a similar reaction to the kid in the article. I got a headache just looking at the thing. One can only imagine how unpleasant it must be to actually go there everyday.

Posted by: Bryan on March 23, 2005 09:37 PM



Those are very funny and perceptive jokes and descriptions. I wish you guys were sitting on the Pritzker Prize committee! How do you feel about tax dollars going to support Mayne's kind of architecture, by the way?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 24, 2005 10:54 AM




I see an almost certain inevitability to gov't funding of orthodox modern design stemming from my reading (or possible misreading?) of Mancur Olsen's "Rise and Decline of Nations." I read this book ages ago, so I'm not sure if I'm remembering it correctly. But somehow it seemed to me to saying (or if it wasn't actually saying it, it somehow opened my eyes to the idea) that when something becomes a political decision, the minority group that has, for one reason or another, the most motivation (along with sufficient resources of money -- or even free time and energy) is going to "win." (Other examples of this are the NRA's fight against gun "control", the farm lobby's fight for subsidies, etc.)

It also seems to me that there is an almost built-in "bias" in the field of architecture towards orthodox modernism -- as orthodox moderism flatters the architect into thinking that his or her profession is more important than it really is and it provides lots of aesthetic wiggle room for architects to make personal "statements."

On the other hand, there is a certain amount of built-in self-effacement in more traditional forms of architecture (where architects mostly design buildings to fit into the streetscape, oftentimes as part of a row). I'm thinking, for instance, of the Raymond Hood generation of architects who apparently saw themselves as servants to the captains of industry whom they saw as their patrons. (I think it is this role reversal, perpetrated by orthodox modernism, that is one of the main points of Tom Wolfe's duo of brilliant books, "The Painted Word" and "From Bauhaus to Our House.")

Posted by: Benjamin Hemric on March 24, 2005 11:47 AM



Since most everyone who would read this blog or mine etc etc would readily agree that Mayne (like Koolhaas and Hadid etc etc) is forgettable, of little long-run importance, the remaining issue is "why?" As benjamin Hemric starts to explore, why does this sort of "architecture" have such a hold on so many people?

Posted by: David Sucher on March 24, 2005 12:29 PM



Benjamin -- Enlightening thoughts, thanks. There does seem to be some semi-natural affinity between the bureaucratic mind and modernist (in the largest sense) architecture. Rationalizers all, maybe? I still have a hard time explaining how and why government-official types went from commissioning good-to-fab buildings up to WWII (roughly) and then lousy ones ever since. What a startling turn of events. Maybe that's the point where Tom Wolfe's arguments and points really kick in.

David -- Very true, and eager to read your thoughts about it!

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 24, 2005 01:28 PM



One of my friend's interned for him a few years back and here are his comments:

"Thanks for the link - that's the guy I worked for during the Summer of 2001 in LA. I think many architects preferred his earlier work. A lot
of those smaller homes and restaurants/interiors were very detailed and rich in material. His recent public projects have started to
become repetitive. The use of material (perf. metal screens) and formal rhetoric (folding/wrinkled planes), remains the same from
project to project."

Posted by: khh on March 24, 2005 02:03 PM



Michael B and khh' comments: very simple, if materialistic, explanation. (and you might say - here she's again, hammering same tired point)

First, pre WWII vs. contemporary government public comissions. In today's construction, the most expensive items on a budget aren't materials but labor costs. By historical reasons, partially union-related. Obviously, during and right after Depression everybody in the industry were happy to have a steady-paying job, even if it meant not having 15 min coffee breaks every 2 hours and no guaranteed 10% salary increase every year. So, architects, given relatively modest budgets, were able to include many labor-intensive details into projects - of course, on condition they were partial to such details. Now, architects have to save money for labor - at decoration expense.
On a much, much smaller scale I see it in interiors today - original designs often call for intricate details and expensive furnishings, to client's delight, but then inevitably budget gets slushed and details disappear after the drawing set go to bid, i.e. when contractors send in their labor costs. Bye- bye, rosewood panels with moldings, here comes composite maple, labelled "clean, modern look".

Second. Restaurant and small-houses (rich materials and mass of details) vs. cookie-cutter public projects.
Client for the former: private; for the latter: government. Former: pays his own sweat and blood money and rightly demands individuality and attention to small detail he paid for. Latter: one department has it's say on design, totally different- on cost and yet miriad others - on other project-related issues (PC is one of them; job might be awarded NOT to the best and cheapest contractor, but to minority-or woman-owned business, f.ex.)
In that environment, who cares if design gets recycled?

Posted by: Tatyana on March 24, 2005 03:44 PM



MB, I don't know for sure but maybe this has something to do with it: The trouble with theories of art.

Tantyana, so you are saying that we have substituted "flash" and "goofiness" for labor-intensive detailing? Is that it?

Posted by: David Sucher on March 24, 2005 07:54 PM



David, I'm saying it is not always architect/designer who is to blame for the slim modern look so despised here; labor/construction costs play big role in the story.
Personally, I too prefer in case of budget nosedive omit the expensive details altogether rather than go for a cheap ready-made substitutes, like fiberglass domes instead of artisan plaster work.
This way nobody cheats no one.

Posted by: Tatyana on March 24, 2005 09:41 PM



Léon Krier a genius? The man's work is tired and derivative. The same is true of Porphyrios. Mayne's not in the same league with some of the other Pritzker Prize winners, but I challenge any of you to find buildings like Koolhaas's at the Illinois Institute of Technology, which are beautiful, innovative, and technologically creative. Krier wouldn't know how to integrate a building into Mies van der Rohe's system while also solving an urban transportation system if it bit him in the arse. The United States has always been a pioneer of the new, and falling back on tired old models is never going to be the solution for this country. The liveliest urban spaces--New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, etc.--are all places where architects were willing to experiment and push forward, not simply look backwards. You can stay stuck in the pre-Renaissance era, but the rest of the world isn't.

Posted by: Zax on March 24, 2005 11:58 PM



"The United States has always been a pioneer of the new, and falling back on tired old models is never going to be the solution for this country."

Which is why when making important political decisions our government relies on the words of a bunch of dead men written in the eighteenth century.

Sometimes new sucks. And sometimes the old is new again. Say what you will about the "new", this is very much a country that also respects tradition. This is probably what keeps it from flying off the handle into space. Tradition provides a wonderful grounding. More to the point, it seems to me that Modernism is now old. How can you even defend it as "new"?

Tatyana, I don't know if I totally buy the "it's too expensive" argument. I know that I myself have made this argument before, but, the more I think about it, what is to stop the detailed elements from being made in some place like China and simply shipped to the US? There was some debate about the poor quality of recent architecture last year on a couple blogs and in the NYTimes. One of the conclusions was that there is a real lack of skilled artisans in the US.

What is there to stop the government from passing a law demanding that all government buildings not be built in a modernist style? A referendum, perhaps?

Posted by: lindenen on March 25, 2005 02:03 AM




I hope people didn't miss today's (March 24, 2005) issue of "The Sun." (I normally don't get a chance to buy it these days, but the top of the front page headline said: "Modernism Comes of Age.") There are two related articles on the landmarking of contemporary architecture that also seem to me to relate to recent discussions at 2 Blowhards, including this one.

In paraticular, one of the articles had a number of quotes (along with their placement in the article) that just jumped out at me.

Robert Tierney, the chairman of the Landmark Preservation Commission, is quoted as saying the following:

"After 30 or 40 years, you don't always have the immediate ability to judge the long-term significance . . . . I mean, when we designate these things, that is it. It is permanent." (Strictly speaking, by the way, this isn't entirely true.) And this quote is then used by the author to denigrate 2 Columbus Circle, which is discussed in the next paragraph.

Finally, in the last paragraph, Mr. Tierney and the author of the article show their true "orthodox modernist" colors:

"As time passes, more modern buildings will come into our inventory, and we will see more designations," Mr. Tierney said. The commission will also see more candidates, especially considering the recent surge of construction in and around ground zero and along New York City's waterfronts. About this, Mr. Tierney said, "There is a kind of architectural renaissance taking place right now with some of the great architects, like Norman Foster and Renzo Piano, starting to build her now.

"And it is very exciting. I would like to be landmarks commissioner 30 years from now." [When I see nominated structures more to my likeing.]

- - - - -

Also I think people might be interested in taking a look at the March 25, 2005 issue of "The Chronicle of Higher Education" which has a 32-page supplement entitled "Campus Architecture."

One of the thoughts that struck me while looking through it was how exciting the PHOTOGRAPHS of the orthodox modern buildings looked TO ME and how hum-drum the PHOTOGRAPHS of the other kinds of modernism looked.

Which brings to mind a point that has been made by others that the photographic medium is "made" for orthodox modern architecture (and vice versa) while other types of modernism may actually work better experientially -- especially on a day to day, year round, year-in and year-out basis. But how does one communicate in photographs how wonderful these buildings are?

For instance, there is a magnificent neo-Federal apartment house on the corner of Fifth Ave. and 11th St. that adds so much to the NYC streetscape, both from close up and from far away. (It has terrific street-level detailing, plus a tenant put a wonderful basketball basket on an idiosyncratic first floor "terrace." And it has an unusually handsome water tower "shed" on the roof.) But I think even I would find this building humdrum in a photograph -- especially when compared to an "zippy" orthodox modernist tower (even if the orthodox modernist tower is "hell" to walk by on a daily, year round basis).

I haven't gotten a chance to read through the issue, but at least one of the articles seems to take a skeptical look at the practice of hiring "stararchitects" for campus buildings.

Posted by: Benjamin Hemric on March 25, 2005 02:13 AM



KHH -- Thanks for the inside info!

Tatyana -- Very enlightening, tks. Practicalities do explain a lot. You're reminding me of a very general thought, which is that if you're looking for pleasure and satisfaction, you'll often have to be willing to pay a bit more for them. Many people seem willing to do this with food, cars, clothes, vacations ... They seem less willing with houses and institutional buildings. Houses, many people seem to think in terms of square footage per dollar, and "how big is the yard." Institutional buildings ... Well, businesses and governments are under big cost constraints. On the other hand, I wonder if the public might be more willing to cut government a little slack if the government weren't so eager to force crapola like urban renewal, paving-America, and modernist archtitecture down everyone's throats. I wonder too how the cost of an acceptable, traditional-looking post office would compare with a standard-issue modernist one. Do you have any idea? Would the modernist one be so much cheaper? Certainly some of the flashy late-modernist buildings the GSA has put together in its recent drive aren't cheap ...

Zax -- I like Krier's buildings, you don't, that's a matter of taste. And I'm happy to agree that a transportation center is an impressive piece of engineering, although I'll reserve judgment on it as a place for humans until I visit in person. But why wouldn't you be willing to be impressed by Krier? He's master-planned a town that works. He's been a big inspiration for a major trend in architecture and urbanism. Are there many architects of any kind whose achievements are on that level? I'm surprised you cite the Illinois Institute of Technology. I wasn't aware the place is voluntarily visited by many people who aren't either students or modernist-architecture freaks. On the other hand, Seaside's overrun by civilians who seem to be having a good time and to be taking home ideas to make their own towns and homes a little more pleasant.

Lindenen -- That's really well put. I'm surprised when people don't recognize the crucial role that the traditional and the familiar play in our lives. It's nice to come home and be able to find the book you were in the middle of reading, and to be able to find your way around your kitchen without being challenged by too much. It's great to be able to tell what a building is just by the way it looks -- a post office that looks like a post office, for instance. Much of life is by necessity gone through semi-unconsciously, and for us to be able to do that we need to be able to depend on a lot that's familiar and trustworthy. I think there's a place for novelty and for being challenged, but I suspect that for most people it's a rather small place. And I suspect most people would be made very unhappy by a life that was forever turning over in new, radical and unfamiliar ways.

Benjamin -- Once again, many thanks for the thoughts, info and tips. I'm running out to get a copy of the Sun!

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 25, 2005 11:46 AM



Lindsey,
I'm sure nothing stops manufacturers from producing goods in a way that makes most sense economically. As I said, the materials/ready made details, etc are not the most expensive items on a budget; labor is.
Vinyl floor tile, result of may be 30 factory operations, cost from $1.30 to $2.00 a square foot; contractor's labor of a) prepping the subfloor b)gluing the tile down c)cleaning and waxing raise the cost to at least $4 per sq. ft. In areas where all of this has to be done ONLY by unionized workers, the cost could rise to $5 and more. And when you talk small quantities of custom-profile moulding, it's triple the price of standard stock item from Indonesia.

I am not qualified, I'm afraid, to opine categorically on a question of lack of artisans in the US. I've only practiced in New York and never had to tear my hair in search of muralists, stone carvers, millworkers or glass fabricators - quite the opposite, they compete to get my attention. But may be the situation is reversed someplace else; so I can't say for sure NYT panel is wrong.

By nature of the profession, an architect/designer is the most visible figure on a job. However, (s)he is not the one controlling total costs of it, client is, so let's not scapegoat an architect for what is the bulk of the iceberg beneath the surface.

Posted by: Tatyana on March 25, 2005 12:41 PM



"By nature of the profession, an architect/designer is the most visible figure on a job. However, (s)he is not the one controlling total costs of it, client is, so let's not scapegoat an architect for what is the bulk of the iceberg beneath the surface."

Scapegoat the architect? How? Who? When did I do such a thing? I hope to one day become an architect. I thought we were discussing the economics of the matter, not where to place blame.

Posted by: lindenen on March 25, 2005 01:28 PM



Lindsey, I was just rephrasing my earlier statement (please look up to my answer to David Sucher), and in no way meant you personally.

As far as placing the blame of "bare" modernism on the architect: I think this is the running topic of this and earlier discussions on this site. I don't deny existence of "starchitecture" but I tried to show there are other forces, apart from ego play, that factor in: namely, economics of construction.

Michael, I'd rather stay away from speculating on comparative construction costs of GSA-funded traditional vs. modernist post office building construction. It depends on hundreds of factors.

But if we try to provide as many apples-to-apples lines as possible (for example, use of ready-made traditional trim vs. ready-made modern building blocks, instead of comparing ready-made traditional trim vs. CUSTOM modernist detail, like railings, etc) - I suspect, yes, traditional building will cost more than modernist.

A disclaimer: I'm not an architect or construction manager, biggest costs estimates I've done were on multiple story contract interiors, I have no knowledge of the cost involved in many construction budget items (site preparation, f.ex) - and so my considerations might very well be erroneous.

Posted by: Tatyana on March 25, 2005 01:57 PM



I think I was the one scapegoating architects! And, by god, I'll probably do it again sometime.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 25, 2005 02:18 PM



Tatyana.
I guess my first reaction would be to point out that some of these goofy bits of starchitecture e.g. the Seeattle Library, are not at all inexpensive. In fact, on a square foot basis they can extremely expensive. The Koolhaas thing here was $273/SF and I have no idea if that includes soft costs or what. At any rate, you can buy a great deal of very expensive finish for $273/SF. Koolhaas simply decided not to. It was a choice -- with little to do with $$$$.

Posted by: David Sucher on March 25, 2005 06:32 PM



David, you're setting a strawman.
I said nothing about Koolhaas's, Mayne's, Gehry's or any other "starchitect"'s creation. By a simple reason: every their building is custom, and custom means mucho dinero, in any style. If Koolhaas decided to build a classical palace in a manner of Versailles, with every door and window designed and fabricated from scratch, it will probably cost more than his Seattle library.

If you recall, my original comment was in response to Michael's thoughts about "modernist- in larger sense- architecture". I'm saying among factors making architects to follow in modernist tradition (education, fashion, ego, "starchitects"' copycat, what have you) there is such thing as economic reality. With everything else being equal, it is less expensive to build typical modern building than typical traditional building, if only because of lower labor/installation costs involved. I think. With all the disclaimers listed above.(was it a third time? forth? sigh.)

And I certainly never used the word "goofy", however hard you try to put it in my mouth.

Posted by: Tatyana on March 25, 2005 10:39 PM



Tatyana,
I didn't mean to even remotely suggest that you would characterize Koolhaas' Seattle work as "goofy."
I am happy to do so myself.

Posted by: David Sucher on March 26, 2005 09:24 AM



I do not like Mayne's buildings. They are different but not in a way that is comfortable or beautiful or even interesting. They seem to strive only to be "different".

Posted by: Claire Petuck on March 27, 2005 09:03 PM



This started out quickly, but I just seem to be adding points as I write, so I am changing to outline format:

1. I'm not a frequent visitor to this blog, but its very clear the consensus is that things need to be built to look older, duller and at right angles.
1.A. Some people like older, duller, right angled buildings. Some people like jaggedy angled buildings. Seeing as we live in America, we get to hate/love whatever gets built.
1.B. There is a lot more inoffensive, poorly done crap than the buildings of Morphosis and his Deconstructivist friends. Quit your whining.


2. Thom Mayne got a Pritzker for his funky buildings,
2.A. Does everyone who wins the Oscars have to meet with your approval too? If your guy doesn't win this year do you call the academy elitist and not want your guy next year to win because of it?
2.B. Granted, I have seen Mayne lecture, and agree that he should let the buildings do the talking. But he's not making money doing speeches.
2.C. See his Headquarters for NOAA: http://www.baltimoresun.com/features/lifestyle/bal-to.mayne29mar29,1,7042571.story?coll=bal-artslife-today&ctrack=1&cset=true
2.D. Or his San Franscico Project, which uses no HVAC. http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2005/03/21/DDG6QBRQU31.DTL&type=art
2.E. There is so little "there" there in LA, but just the fact that it is something, it will conflict with its surroundings.
2.F. Just so you know, the design for the Cal-Trans building had a "base price" like a car, after which there were several "options" - and the board seemed to think that some of the options were worth it, as they ponied up the money. That project was going to cost what it cost, regardless if they covered it in pink stucco, plastic columns and wrapped a bow around it.
2.G. All those fancy angled metal pieces are cut & formed by computer. This is where your savings in labor comes into play. It also means, as an architect, the contractors have less freedom in diluting (i.e. mucking up) the design. We like that.

3. Would you have preferred a Brutalist CMU Shack? That would have been cheaper.
3.A Because Traditional is done all the time, people are comfortable with it. People are also comfortable sitting on the couch watching re-runs. Comfortable does not mean better.
3.B. Tranditional is only cheaper if its all stock trim that your contractor has used before. Otherwise custom cost = custom cost.
3.C. I would argue that much more of our tax dollars are spent on butt-ugly public buildings and infrastructure that do nothing but suck the life and property value from the surrounding area.
3.D. Do all public buildings have to be some zig-zaggy metal contraptions? No, but they don't need to have little classical pediments or thatched roofs or what-have-you. If you just had gruel every morning and then suddenly had a bowl of fresh fruit would you complain because you didn't like that it had grapes in it? No thanks, when taxes are involved I'd rather stick with the gruel, eh?
3.E. We pay taxes for a lot of crap I think we can do without. And while I complain about it, I don't think any one person should get to decide how everyone's money gets spent. Even if it is me doing the deciding.

In conclusion:
Those old dead white guys wrote some great stuff; life, liberty, pursuit of happiness & all. They also wrote that a black man is 3/5ths of a white man. Not everything that's old is gold. Besides, in sixty years there might be another couple of blowhards complaining that nobody values old Thom Mayne's contributions to the civic sphere anymore.

Posted by: Rob D on April 7, 2005 04:01 PM






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