Thom Mayne

Thom Mayne

Producing Something Off

In 2009 a spaceship landed in the middle of old New York. At 41 Cooper Square, Thom Mayne’s iconic building shines like a diamond in the rough, transparent, light, and extremely cool.

As an architect, Thom Mayne ( b.1944) is fascinated with imperfection, he says: ”I have a preference for rough architecture, real, inexpensive, unfinished.” Initially the local community was sceptical of the new project in the middle of their neighbourhood, objecting by posting notes such as: ”Please take this spaceship to another site.” But after a while most people seem to have embraced the newcomer, accepted it as one of their own. Architecture is not meant to be a popularity contest though, as Mayne puts it: ”We’ve failed if the response is that it’s OK, if it seems neutral. Everybody can’t like it.”

Thom Mayne received the Pritzker Architecture Prize in March 2005. Mayne graduated from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design in 1978, and has since held teaching positions at various renowned Universities. Mayne is principal of Morphosis, an architectural firm in Santa Monica, California. In this interview Mayne talks of the Cooper building, but also more generally about architecture: ”Architecture is a result of a process of asking questions, and testing them, and re-interrogating, and changing in a repetitive way.” To Thom Mayne architecture is ”a way of thinking and exploring, inventing, and making and participating in the world” , he says.

'The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art' is a privately funded college located in Cooper Square in the East Village neighbourhood of Manhattan, New York City. Cooper Union was established in 1859 on a radical new model of American higher education based on founder Peter Cooper's fundamental belief that the best education should be ”free and open to all” who qualify, regardless of race, religion, social status. The building at 41 Cooper Square was built as a new classroom, laboratory, and studio facility, designed by Thom Mayne with associate architect Gruzen Samton. In contrast to the Foundation Building, it is a modern, environmentally "green" design, housing nine above-ground floors and two basements.

Thom Mayne was interviewed by Jesper Bundgaard.

Camera and editi: Per Henriksen
Produced by: Christian Lund
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2014

Supported by Nordea-fonden

  • Lars Norén

    Art as an Underwater Bomb

    The unsurpassed Swedish playwright Lars Norén grew up in a home that felt “radically unsafe.” In this rare interview he traces his writing back to his childhood experiences: “They could've locked me in the basement at age 11 because I had so much material.”

  • Dissing+Weitling

    The Bicycle Snake

    ‘The Bicycle Snake’ is Copenhagen’s new architectonic trademark. It elegantly connects two parts of the city, which is one of the world’s most bike-friendly places. We visited Dissing+Weitling Architecture to hear their thoughts on the iconic construction.

  • Nick Laird

    Reading his Poems

    “Quickly and awkwardly, I think is how I shall read.” Enjoy this evocative video in which Northern Irish poet and novelist Nick Laird reads from a selection of his powerful and commended poetry collections.

  • Hans-Peter Feldmann

    Advice to the Young

    German artist Hans-Peter Feldmann advises young artists to always follow the path they themselves feel is the right one – however strange or fruitless it seems: “Chasing after false idols or role models is always a dead end.”

  • Colum McCann

    Do What is Most Difficult

    Novelist Colum McCann writes in a cupboard by choice. Watch the charming Irishman discuss with great playfulness how writers are constantly faced with improbable but necessary tasks: “It’s like trying to solve a problem in complex mathematics.”

  • Norman Foster

    Advice to the Young

    Norman Foster, one of the architectural icons of our time, here advises upcoming architects and artists to make sure that what they’re doing is their true desire – if not, they should simply find something else.

  • Alfredo Jaar

    Images are not Innocent

    "A million people were killed in 100 days under the criminal indifference of the world". In this interview artist Alfredo Jaar reminds us of the importance of images and why they are not innocent.

  • Jake and Dinos Chapman

    Hitler Turning in his Grave

    Death threats from neo-Nazis was just one of the many extreme responses to the English artist duo Jake and Dinos Chapman’s controversial and much debated exhibition of modified watercolours by Hitler. Hear their thoughts on the divisive project.

  • Daniel Lanois

    Advice to the Young

    “Should one be so lucky to find something they are good at, then pursue it with full passion, man.” Spot-on advice from one of the world’s most sought-after producers Daniel Lanois, who forwards wisdom from the legendary Brian Eno.

  • Joyce Carol Oates

    Speaking of the Devil

    “American history has a kind of tragic cyclical nature to it.” A thought-provoking interview with American writer Joyce Carol Oates, who ponders on how the concept of ‘devils’ has always been predominant in American society.

  • Klaus Rifbjerg

    A Little While Longer

    Klaus Rifbjerg (1931-2015) is one of the great masters of Danish literature. In this deeply personal and moving interview from 2013, the writer looks back on his life and literary career, reflecting on what it means to age – and to die.

  • Lars Norén

    Advice to the Young

    Lars Norén is widely regarded as the greatest contemporary Swedish playwright. We paid him an exclusive visit at his apartment in Stockholm to hear his advice for aspiring writers.