On Making: Thom Mayne's Defiant Advice

Thursday, May 22, 2014 - 9:26am
Photo by Mario Tama

On Making: Thom Mayne's Defiant Advice

"You can't make anything authentic by asking people what they want because they don't know what they want. That's what they're looking at you for."
—Thom Mayne

In last week's newsletter, I asked our readers for advice on what they'd like to see us improve here at On Being. One reader, Howard Maple, shared this pithy quotation from the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne. I appreciate Mr. Maple's honesty and reminder to trust one's creative instincts while paying attention. The onus is on us.


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Trent Gilliss

is the cofounder of On Being / KTPP and currently serves as chief content officer and executive editor. He received a Peabody Award in 2007 for his work on "The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi" and garnered two Webby Awards (in 2005, and again in 2008). The Online News Association nominated his journalistic work multiple times in the general excellence and outstanding specialty journalism categories. Trent's reported and produced stories from Turkey to rural Alabama, from Israel and the West Bank to Cambridge, England.

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Thom nailed it with that quote

I would artists, as am I, are the vessel through which the collective unconscious emerges. While it may or may not emerge (a hunch on what to do.)out of a conversation, there is a connection established. So then what is the process of each artist to get to that place where whatvemerges has the integrity to which others can say...yes!

Sounds pretty arrogant to me

Oh my this is so true! My daughter and son-in-law own an architectural firm in Los Angeles, HAZARD | FRANKEL ARCHITECTS.Both are RPI grads and I wanted her to minor in Construction Management, but she chose Psychology. She says in their practice, her minor is often been more important in an initial phase of a project. People have an idea of what they want sometimes, but often it is vague and more about what they want the structure to represent or the "feel" that it transmits. It's up to the designer to be able to "listen" and then translate all of that into a "structure statement" that will stand the test of time! NO.SMALL.TASK.

Artists have little obligation to people, performance, or posterity. Architects, however, cannot professionally operate in a vacuum. Clients often improve architecture if engaged and heard.