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

Photography and editing by Per Henriksen

Produced by Christian Lund

Copyright: Louisiana Channel, produced by Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2014.

Supported by Nordea-fonden.

  • Guido van der Werve

    Simplicity of the Sublime

    It was when he lived in hectic New York, that Dutch filmmaker, video artist and sports aficionado, Guido van der Werve, became acutely aware of his artistic need to seek out simplicity - and to be bored.

  • Paul Auster

    The Meanness of New York

    The iconic New York novelist, Paul Auster, comments on the much debated Eric Garner case, and why he doesn’t want to give his usual pep talk about his beloved New York.

  • Kiran Desai

    The World Arrived in Books

    Because she spent her childhood in an India, that had not yet opened its doors to the larger world, Indian novelist, Kiran Desai, had only her knowledge from books to rely on, before she later became an immigrant.

  • Robert Longo

    I am an Image Thief

    Does copying other prominent artists such as Jackson Pollock really make you an artist? Find out in our interview with American painter Robert Longo, who calls himself an image thief.

  • Kenneth Goldsmith

    Poetry in a Newspaper

    Meet the playful American poet Kenneth Goldsmith, who demonstrates how poetry is all around us - you just need to open your eyes to it, the way Goldsmith does in this video.

  • Kenneth Goldsmith

    Reads Traffic Reports to Obama

    Plagiarism, file sharing, inauthenticity and insincerity. Vivacious American poet, Kenneth Goldsmith, was unfazed about entertaining the White House: “I just said the things that I normally say.”

  • Kenneth Goldsmith

    Assume No Readership

    This video presents a poet, who believes in uncreative writing and reads traffic reports to Barack Obama in the White House, calling it poetry. Meet Kenneth Goldsmith, who claims that “copyright doesn’t exist.”

  • James McBride

    That’s the America I Live In

    “When you glorify violence, then it comes back to bite you.” In this short video, writer James McBride reflects on the riots in the city of Ferguson and America’s refusal to take a long critical look at itself.

  • Shirin Neshat

    The power behind the veil

    "Nothing is ever beautiful without some disturbance or violence. That is why the melancholy of my works is so familiar to the people." Interview with the Iranian artist Shirin Neshat.

  • Sebastian Diaz Morales

    Make your enemy your friend

    In dept portrait of Argentinian video artist Sebastian Diaz Morales who grew up in wild Patagonia where the wind blows 150 km/h. It was the experience of a stranded whale which made Diaz Morales aware of the language of video art.

  • Marina Abramović

    How to Drink a Glass of Water

    ”Feel how the water goes into your mouth, goes into your body, into your cells.” Meet performance icon Marina Abramović in this exclusive video where she teaches you how to turn an everyday moment into an extraordinary experience.

  • Siri Hustvedt

    Art is a Memory

    “Every painting is always two paintings: The one you see, and the one you remember.” Interview with the renowned writer Siri Hustvedt on her strong personal relationship with art and on how she sees image and text as very different experiences.