Sunday, October 23, 2005

macho mayne revisited

the sydney herald runs an interview with thom mayne where he of course repeats his design mantra: "Architecture is not supposed to make people happy." yet just a few paragraphs later, he references allen ginsberg and che guevara as influences:

I'm not just influenced by the '60s, it's who I am. I grew up with Allen Ginsberg and Che Guevara. I flirted with various forms of communism when it was way out of style. It was this really strange and creative time in music and culture and it was fabulous. The part of all that comes out in the work is that I'm extremely, unrealistically optimistic. I believe that artistic activities change people. You do effect change. I see architecture as a political, social and cultural act - that is its primary role."
the hypocrisy and contradiction is almost astonishing. does he not feel any cognitive dissonance referencing communism and Che and at the same time refuting architecture's need to serve a fundamental function to those who use is every day?

this stands in stark contrast to the suisman lecture I attended last week. sure, he cuts another tall, imposing figure with expensive eyewear, de rigeur for any working architect these days. but suisman speaks emotionally and eloquently about the possibility of design uniting a nation. his plan for palestine, while extremely schematic, is grounded in an optimism rarely heard or seen when an architect explains his program. its likely his plan will never be realized, given the still contentious political and religious situation in israel, but he provides a considered examination of the architectural and urban conditions necessary to build and support an independent palestinian state.
for some reason, the masochist in me attends way too many architecture lectures, so I'd like to think I have a fairly broad basis for comparison. and I've seen mayne speak, watched as his acolytes have recorded every word as he delivered his vision of architecure in a packed auditorium at UCLA. suisman talked simply to a group of about 40 in the courtyard at the schindler house, but delivered an intimate, stirring disquisition that truly underscored architecture's ability, without using buzzwords, academic jargon, or theoretical neologism. he speaks simply and with heart. mayne's carefully constructed "maverick" identity just falls flat these days.


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