Thom Mayne: “They want you to be left or right”
Mr. Mayne, how would you describe your relationship with architecture?
Architecture is the oddest profession. In the beginning you're very much involved in finding your voice and locating yourself artistically. For 25 years you're working with small projects, domestic projects, things people will trust you with like cafés and small work. And then you mature at 50 and you're given your first projects. It’s like that across the board — very, very few people break that. Especially in the US, you're starting at 45 or 50 so the prior time, you're very much involved in finding a voice and you’re involved more within the aesthetic of architecture.
What changes when you start doing larger works?
Well, by nature at that point, you’re starting to invest yourself in social, cultural and political projects and for me, that came on quickly because when we took off it happened very, very quickly. We were doing public work: courthouses, public buildings, projects that were connected to cultural and political phenomenon. Architecture by nature is a social art form. You are aware of this as a kid through your education, so there is long period where you are working on the art form but you don't have an opportunity to use your interest. In my case, when we started doing work that was clearly in the environmental realm, all kinds of articles were written, like, “What happened to Morphosis and Thom Mayne?”
Christoph Niemann: “I don’t need a big idea”
Mr. Niemann, you once illustrated a pie chart of your daily routine with four hours blocked off as “Creative.” How would we experience those four hours in your head?
I hope that there’s something special that would come out of it — but with that idea, you’re also suggesting that strolling around in my head is something dramatic, that something is happening that is as entertaining as what ends up on paper.
And that’s not the case?
Actually, I can say that the steps that lead to my finished drawings are very unspectacular. It’s more like with a sculpture, where I chip away piece by piece from a stone and slowly get closer to the final form — to hopefully have an elegant form where the reader is in any kind of way emotionally touched. But creating never happens in those big gestures that the final product suggests in the end. It’s a rather boring film that plays in my head.