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

  • Margaret Atwood

    The Woods Inside Me

    “I was carried into the woods in a packsack when I was six months old.” Canadian Man Booker Prize winning author Margaret Atwood here describes her special relationship to the woods, and her first overwhelming meeting with the city.

  • Sammy Baloji

    The Past in Front of Us

    Through his intriguing and poignant pictures, Congolese artist and photographer Sammy Baloji confronts the Western portrayal of his country by linking old photographs from Belgian colonial times with contemporary ones. The result is captivating.

  • COBE

    Monuments of the Future

    Dan Stubbergaard, founder of the internationally praised COBE Architects, takes us around his hometown Copenhagen in Denmark to show and discuss what motivates their exciting socially conscious and highly innovative projects.

  • Juliana Spahr

    Politics in a Poem

    “Politics are constantly shaping literary practices.” Pioneering and conceptually challenging American poet Juliana Spahr here ponders on the tenuous, ever-changing overlap between poetry and politics.

  • Christien Meindertsma

    The Illusion of Safety

    Does increased security make you feel safer? Cool Dutch designer and artist Christien Meindertsma investigates this issue in her compelling art book ’Checked Baggage’, which comprises a week’s worth of objects confiscated in Schiphol Airport after 9/11.

  • Michael Ondaatje

    We Can’t Rely on One Voice

    Man Booker Prize winner Michael Ondaatje, widely known for the novel ‘The English Patient’, here contemplates how his novels always start with a landscape and end with a conversation. It’s through these different voices that his stories truly come alive.

  • 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.

  • Michael Ondaatje

    The Music in the Words

    “The rhythm of music has been the biggest influence on my writing – it’s not Wordsworth, it’s Ray Charles.” Michael Ondaatje, one of Canada’s greatest authors, on how music and writing are so connected that they must sometimes be separated.

  • Susan Hiller

    Advice to the Young

    Too many people think that you can only be creative within the field of art: “It’s not just a little ghetto called ‘art’ that allows you to do that.” Internationally acclaimed artist Susan Hiller advises younger colleagues not to make art unless they have to.

  • Susan Hiller

    Stories from the Other Side

    A cascade of voices belonging to people who have been declared physically dead, but lived to tell the story, comes together in a ghostlike installation of 104 screens. Experience the intriguing art installation by the influential American artist Susan Hiller.

  • Jeffrey Eugenides

    Reading from 'The Marriage Plot'

    “The problem of being Superman was that everybody else was so slow.” Enjoy this video of Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Jeffrey Eugenides reading a hilarious section from his novel ’The Marriage Plot’.

  • Umberto Eco

    Advice to the Young

    Best-selling Italian novelist Umberto Eco here advises aspiring writers not to take themselves too seriously, but to go step by step and remember that: “You’re 10 per cent inspiration and 90 per cent perspiration.”