Christian Long

Thom Mayne: Architecture as a Connection

In TED Talks on May 13, 2010 at 9:27 pm

Reflection by HAGEN F.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Thom Mayne: Architecture as a Connection

Mayne’s video is one that happens to be very confusing and hard to follow.

What he and his team are trying to achieve is a connection between architecture and everything around it. He wants to join architecture with humanity, and other natural forces outside of just the physical world. Buildings are a part of the whole and are slight transformations of the land or physical spaces in order to benefit the physical area that the building sits upon. In essence, buildings are mutations of a genetic code that happens to be the physical space of the world and earth. Buildings are simply an external extension of the physical land that it sits upon.

Mayne also wants to experiment with design using random manifestations of a simple, common structure. A use of random structures that revolve around a singular, basic idea better encompasses the idea of humanity in structures. Human physical features are random and no two people look the same. With the use of random structures, buildings become different from all others and therefore have a more varied range.

The building has to also embody the idea of skin.

The walls are skin, and it is how architects use the skin to influence the first and external appearance of the building. The skin of the building can be changed to have windows for a transparent area of the skin to see the inter mechanisms of the body that is the building’s internal structure. The skin can be transformed for different functions fitting the specifications of the architect. Light can emphasize the attraction of the building because light attracts attention. Our eyes are drawn toward bright, colorful materials even if just for a slight second. Light also gives a sense of activation to the building because the light symbolizes that the building is ‘on.’ Light has always been associated with on and off switches, lights for a room an example. In addition to switches that turn on lights in rooms, red lights that switch to green are the most common forms of activation symbolized by the change of light. Street lights, most television screens, and computers are all examples that use the distinction between red and green to signal that they are on or off. Some skin, as Mayne and his team have done, forces air into the building by movement. This ousts the need for air conditioners in buildings because the skin of the building can now do this instead.

By changing the land, one can also influence the design of a building and create a better connection between the physicality of the ground and the structures being built on it. Landscape can be used as a major component to the building to both enhance its appearance and bolster the function of the building. The connection between buildings and earth produce a way to create coherence that is only specific to that area and only for them. That land shape can only be copied if the land is changed in another territory, but for that time, the building is coherent only to that area. Buildings that are only specific to the cities that they occupy have a ‘connective tissue’ of sorts that only that city and building can ‘enjoy.’

Mayne is trying to slowly change architecture into a more biological process. He is trying to achieve this by using the landscape to influence the design of the building and by using random manifestations of the same basic idea. These along with the idea that the walls and outside view of a building are the building’s skin are how architecture is changing to have a more biological thought process.


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