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

  • Jeff Wall

    We are all Actors

    An enjoyable and philosophical conversation between the pioneering Canadian photographer Jeff Wall and Belgian Wall expert Thierry de Duve about how Wall works with people, places and variations of beauty.

  • Jeff Wall

    Pictures Like Poems

    Discover what inspires and motivates one of the modern masters of photography, Canadian Jeff Wall, who here discusses a selection of his impressive photographs and their often meticulous compositions.

  • Three Artists

    On a Spider by Louise Bourgeois

    A ginormous 30 feet high spider would scare the life out of most of us. In this video three artists share their diverse feelings towards the spider sculpture made by French artist Louise Bourgeois – as a tribute to her mother.

  • Klara Hobza

    On Diving Through Europe

    In her grand art endeavor ‘Diving Through Europe’, Berlin-based Klara Hobza investigates the boundaries of what is conceivable by diving the European rivers, stretching from the North Sea to the Black Sea in the course of 20-30 years.

  • Tomas Tranströmer

    The Music Says Freedom Exists

    We visited the Nobel Prize laureate Tomas Tranströmer in his home in Stockholm. Tranströmer's poetry is closely related to music. In 1991 he suffered a stroke, which deprived him of his speaking abilities but not his writing. And he still plays the piano.

  • Jannis Kounellis

    Gray is the Color of Our Time

    Take a look behind Greek artist Jannis Kounellis’ raw and powerful work: “There’s no distance between me and the dialogue established years ago, which sees man as the centre. That’s what compels me to create art all the time, every day.”

  • Meriç Algün Ringborg

    Absurd Questions

    ‘Have you ever been declared judicially incompetent?’ Turkish artist Meriç Algün Ringborg uses her own surreal experience as an immigrant in her challenging art, which confronts the bureaucracy of immigration.

  • Chimamanda Adichie

    Beauty does not Solve any Problem

    I am drawn to the beauty of sentences, Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie confesses in this interview. Nevertheless it is important to keep a distance to your characters.

  • 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.

  • Alaa al-Aswany

    Tribute to the Woman

    Best-selling Egyptian novelist Alaa al-Aswany is at no loss for words when it comes to expressing his high regard for women: “I believe that there are more heroines than heroes – both in literature and in life.” Watch his interesting reasons.

  • Wangechi Mutu

    Cultural Cutouts

    Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu uses her colourful artwork to confront the missing attention to black women within society: “It’s kind of an ironic thing that I’m producing that image out of the very lack of it.”

  • Margaret Atwood

    On the Planet of Speculative Fiction

    Experience award-winning Canadian writer Margaret Atwood in this humorous and vivid conversation about her works of elaborate ‘speculative fiction’, and how reality and science fiction are in fact inextricably intertwined.