OK, I suppose it's time that I made a small confession: I have a thing for really smart guys. I remember when I was in junior high, buying magazines with names like Tiger Beat and cutting out pictures of cute boys from TV and movies to add to my collection. This habit dwindled in high school (eventually...) and by the time I entered college, it occurred to me that I didn't give a young man a second thought if I didn't appreciate his fully developed cranium. And then the magazines turned into monographs, and I didn't cut out pictures of boys anymore, I cut out pictures of buildings....OK, not really, but isn't it funny to think about pasting an architecture collage all over your Mead 5-Star binder?
The first time I heard Thom Mayne speak was probably in 2001 at the University of Cincinnati, during one of our regular lecture series in the School of Architecture. I can't remember the exact year, it's been so long, but I remember walking away thinking to myself, "now HERE'S a guy who knows what he's doing!!!" Mayne is the principal of Morphosis, an architecture and design firm in Santa Monica, California, and he is often referred to as the "maverick" of the architecture community. He went on to win the Pritzker Prize in 2005, which is architecture's highest honor and a decidedly un-maverick award to receive. He and his firm are responsible for the designs of the Science Center School in Los Angeles, the new University of Cincinnati Rec Center, and the Caltrans building in downtown LA....if you are keeping score at home, his buildings constitute nearly half of the pictures tagged with the word "architecture" in my Flickr set.
So it should come as no surprise to you at this point that I have a bit of an intellectual crush on Thom Mayne. On the off chance that Thom might ever read this blog (unlikely but you never know), I would like to clarify this statement by saying; Thom, I'm not stalking you. I'm not creepy - I'm actually quite normal. I just really respect your ideas and your design approach, and I find your buildings exceedingly photogenic. So, well done there.
Last night I got the chance to see Thom Mayne and the Dean of my current school, Qingyun Ma, in a chat sponsored by a local organization called Zócalo Los Angeles. The talk was entitled "Do Cities Have Expiration Dates?", and both Mayne and Dean Ma, who has a thriving practice of his own in China, had a lot to say on the issue. The conversation was jovial, at times even comical, as the two weaved in and out of comparisons between Los Angeles and other cities, including those megacities in China which are on the verge of exploding in population. And as usual, Mayne made a lot of comments that I found myself unconsciously nodding to, like the following: "You don't like or dislike Los Angeles.....You have to be neutral towards it, because LA just is."
The conversation then went onto discuss the actual lifespan of cities, in relation to the lifespan of humans, the human lifecycle, and geologic time frames. Dean Ma brought a lot of insight to the table, and Mayne left us with a kick in the pants when he openly derided the American predisposition towards faux-historical housing. He finally wondered aloud how we are to succeed with more progressive design in this country when people are so willing to pay for a "copy of a bad fake", as he called it. (Brilliant!, I thought. This is part of the reasoning behind my thesis, which I will share with you eventually.)
In conclusion, the discussion last night was awesome...a real intellectual high, and the epitome of why I so love the profession of architecture. I will post a link to the audio as soon as Zócalo does, but in the meantime, have a look at this picture that I snapped at the beginning, before I figured out that I wasn't supposed to take pictures. And, I know what you're thinking....and the answer is no, I'm not cutting it out and putting it on my binder.....