GEOTHERMAL FUTURES LAB
Mark Foster Gage
In Issue 02 we are working with the idea of post-isms: the semi-influx of theories and ideas about architecture that are constantly being updated and outpaced by each other. We selected a few post-isms. Post-humanism, post-ontology, post-truth, post-internet, post-digital, and so the imagery we eventually arrived at was Borges’ Aleph which is this weird object, hidden underneath the staircase in a madman’s house. You can look at the Aleph and see every object on earth from every perspective simultaneously, without them being confused or mixed with each other. This interview with Mark Foster Gage, along with the featured project, the Geothermal Futures Lab, helps us understand some of these overlapping boundaries of objects and temporalities.
WASH: In some of your work you are combining things, or different elements. We are curious about your process, so what do you gain as a designer from combining things in various ways?
Mark Foster Gage: We started combining separate objects around the time I was introduced to Graham Harman’s work. He was writing about object-oriented ontology, and the most defining characteristic of his philosophy is that we live in a world where everything is about interconnectivity. Everything is valued because of its interconnectivity and its relationship with other things, but the side effect of that is that we don’t look at things as individual entities. All of the work that we were doing in the computer was what Patrik Schumacher would call Parametricism and that it was all highly coordinated patches of surfaces, all organized to have a particular effect or particular flow. When I started reading Graham’s work I was kind of wondering if there was a way to use the computer to manage high amounts of complexity but without relying on that interconnectivity. So the farthest thing we can think of, from an organized parametric or scripted surface, or any of the things we were doing was to imagine a pile of things that had no relationships. The only way we could think to do that was to literally download things from random places on Earth. Any website that had free 3D models that were watertight and in good shape, we would download them. For our Helsinki Guggenheim project we started stacking them up together and literally producing a giant collage.
There is a figure if you see the whole thing, you [can] recognize [it] from far away. But there’s no discernible relationship between the individual parts. You still have many little objects, and a big object but you cannot really make any direct links from the little objects to the big object. That was a way of breaking that interconnectivity, not as a way of saying that this is what all architecture should look like. It was just a theoretical exercise saying: what’s the farthest away we could get from what we’re doing right now and that’s kind of what popped out, and from that I would say we refined the language. We’ve only [been] doing it for a couple years, but we’re in a process where we started to design the individual pieces, abstract them, elongate them, get them to work in sympathy with the brothers and sisters but not really have any interlocking or any direct relationships. So, we have gotten a more sophisticated aesthetic language to get these things to relate to one another, without scripting them to do something: when this one moves that one moves or they all face upwards or their rounded parts all face out. We may go down that road eventually, but what I’m interested in as architecture these days is that it has multiple readings. When you look at it from a mile away it is a very different reading than from a hundred feet away. That is the opposite of the architecture that is being built everywhere. Which is why all of our cities look the same, you look at an office building from a mile away and it is a grid and you get closer and it is just a smaller grid of different materials but it is all organized on the same principles.
So what if projects were organized on different principles? The silhouette is one thing you get to one scale, then you see some types of mass when you get to another and you recognize whatever it is: Pikachu, and other details. To go back to the Aleph thing, in order for that to work you would have to look at not only the object from different angles but from different distances. So in the Aleph, you would understand the object from multiple different views. However, once you add in multiple different distances it exponentially increases the complexity, so ironically you got a more complex object out of less complex coordination.
How do you cultivate those different perspectives, what sort of design tools or methodologies do you use to get a project to have multiple readings from multiple distances or perspectives or users?
In every era in architectural history there has been, almost without exception, some kind of guidelines about what produces significant form. Jeffrey Scott writes about this “Significant Form”, but it is how we, recognize one shape is more appealing than another shape and everyone of course has their individual opinions, but over the course of large populations of people there will be a general consensus on what's beautiful, or what's appealing and what's not. So, you know everybody thinks Trya Banks is beautiful and not a lot of people think Roseanne Barr is beautiful. Of course there are chubby chasers, that go for Roseanne Barr (chuckles), but there’s a general consensus. The same is true for geometry. Do you have a pen?
[MFG sketching proportions]
In Roman Antiquity, the route two the rectangle was considered the most beautiful shape, but in the Renaissance that became the golden section which is constructed with a different geometry and it’s a little bit longer. So this was seen as the key to beauty so if you look at a lot of temples in Roman Antiquity and even Greek Antiquity I think, the Parthenon more or less fits in a route to rectangle, a lot of Roman temples. And the same is true in the Renaissance with the golden section you guys know all about the golden section, I’m sure, but it is recursive so you get a golden section in every golden section. These are seen as, frameworks that allow humans to more consistently produce appealing and beautiful form. There was an enlightenment architect named Henri Blondel who taught at the Ecole des Beaux Arts and he believed that it was like musical scales so in something like Bernini's baldacchino in the Vatican you get these really weird Solomonic columns. Anyways Blondel does an analysis that is harmonically the base is like one type of chord, and if you box in the top part that is another type of chord. The question on how you go about composing things which seem right or seem appealing has changed throughout history. I do not believe it is a one-size-fits-all, I don’t really ascribe to any of these, but the problem of aesthetics which I am interested in, is how people judge things and how we can produce significant form. So it sounds super pretentious, I can produce significant form but this other guy isn't producing significant form, but again there is some consensus that people are going to find certain types of architecture more compelling or more curiosity producing than others.
The way we do it in my office is super inefficient it's just by intuition we'll do a hundred options of something and just pick the one that seems the most interesting and compelling. That's not being generated from a system, it’s being generated in reverse by producing tons and tons of options so come and do a kind of consensus in our office about which one is interesting. Why and what should we continue from that and what should we add from other things so it's kind of a non-analytical systematic approach to Aesthetics. Which is super hard to teach right? Because it's really about intuition, but I would say that the Architects that I most respect from the last 50 years, all have super strong aesthetic intuition. That goes from Zaha Hadid to Frank Gehry, whose work I love. But also someone from a totally different school of thought Rem Koolhaas, even though he does not present his work in the same formal narrative. He has incredible formal intuition about shapes and what makes something appealing, in a way that MVRDV and Bjarke Ingels, who are doing the same work, do not. I don't think they have the intuition that Rem Koolhaas has which is why Iin my opinion his work is so much stronger than theirs, it's not limited to a particular way of practice. It really does come down to an individual intuition.
Do you think it is circling back to the Jeffrey Scott, back to the history of taste, is that where intuition comes from? Being aware of people’s different intuitions, where he mentions how someone looks at an abstracted art form of literature or nature, just as Frank Lloyd Wright.
Yeah, I mean Frank Lloyd Wright had a clear idea about, the prairie style, with its horizontality. There was an agenda he had to produce an architecture for a particular place and that is not a universal idea, but not all places are equal to horizontal. I would say within that ambition he had a really strong intuition about what worked and what didn't work. Whereas other architects who work in a completely different way with different ambitions can have the same intuition that he has, I don't think the intuition is linked to the architectural ambition so whether you want to do boxes or stainless steel or pink buildings or Zaha fluid forms or crazy Frank Gehry stuff. I do not think there is one style that is more successful, I just think that it just comes down to a kind of talent. It is super controversial to talk about intuition, aesthetics, and talent, because talent is not a super democratic idea, because some people have it and some people do not.
Do any of you play a musical instrument? No?
Let us just say yes.
Ok, let us say that you can play the piano and I do not play anything so I would say you probably have more musical talent than I do, because I do not play the piano, or you have a better ear. There's no shame in me admitting “oh yeah, you're better at music”. Or I'm sure one of you is better at math than I am, there's no shame in saying, “oh yeah, you’re totally better at math than I am”. But as soon as you say, the ability to judge something aesthetically, “I have the ability to judge something aesthetically and you don't”, it is all, “whoa, wait a minute, isn't beauty in the eye of the beholder?” You can be better at mathematics, you can be better at music but you cannot be better at judging beauty because that somehow, makes you more powerful or something. That is why beauty in the 20th century was guided by the idea that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, which means everyone is equally able to judge something that is beautiful in his or her own way. I actually do not really believe that is true, I think there are some people that have more intuition, but that is aesthetic intuition. Just because of the non-democratic sensibility of it, it is something that is just totally off the table in architecture schools, talking about talented intuition.
That is interesting, that brings to mind Clement Greenberg for example, when he writes, he very specifically argues that there is kitsch and that there's actual good “high art” and that there is an objective difference between the two. The ability for an architect to produce something that is of a higher quality or a perfect form that comes as a result of their intuition, which you cannot exactly write a recipe for, but at the end of the day it is objective, there is good and there is bad, and it’s a difficult thing to talk about.
It was a lot easier to talk about in Clement Greenberg’s day than it is today. Because now, there's no more hierarchy allowed anywhere, which is good in social and political ways, that the idea that everyone has a democratic voice. One side effect is that we have lost the ability to talk about intuition and Beauty, which is why all architecture today needs to have an alibi; you need to be able to say my building is by the ocean so I made it like a whale. It is literally a metaphor. Someone says, “I see that that building exhibits whaleness” so it is successful at the goal that was set out. You are not judging it against the idea of beautiful or being appealing or anything, you are just judging it against whaleness.On my way coming here I was reading on the in-flight magazine, about Kengo Kuma’s Victoria and Albert Museum in Dundee, Scotland, and the author was saying it's supposed to look like the mountains in the distance and the boats of the local docks. You know, and it looks vaguely like a boat and once you have said that, yeah it looks somewhat boaty, where do you go from there? It's like, check, so that is protection against having to talk about intuition.
That is similar to an argument Sylvia Lavin made, she says — you can judge your architecture based on a metaphor, leaning on the metaphor is a weak way to do architecture.
Yes, that is what Leo Tolstoy said, he said “metaphor and analogy are of the weakest forms of argument”. I just had a former employee who worked for me for a couple years and he wanted to work at Diller and Scoffidio, I know Liz Diller so I emailed her and got him an interview and he went and he did not get the job, so I asked him why? Because his work is from our office, it is great work. (laughs) However, the reason he did not get the job is that he just did not have enough aha moment diagrams. The type where, “the sun is coming from here, the building is angled to the sunlight, aha I get it”. There were not enough aha, moment diagrams that conveyed his ideas. I was that is the saddest thing I have ever heard, because Liz Diller used to be among the most hardcore theoretically engaged critical architects of the 90’s. They did super sophisticated art discoursey projects and now it's “oh you didn't show me the diagram that explains your project quick enough” and I am not willing to look.
It is not a criticism of their work is just a condition of where architecture is now that you are expected to have that ahamoment.
You are expected to turn your architectural project into a sound bite so people get it immediately. In the same way that a TV commercial works, and I think instead of architecture being the commercial it should be the program, it should be the seven seasons of Game of Thrones that will end someday, but we're not sure when. It should not be the 10-second ad for HBO before 50 hours of show, but we are expected to compete with the advertising quickness not the intelligence of a finely crafted show and that is a sad state of architecture, because other disciplines are not being asked to do that.
I mean maybe some extent music is, because you have to have some poppy catchy thing, and a really pretty girl, a pretty boy or hot boy band, but it's no one's asking. If anything in television, the shows are getting more sophisticated and more in-depth and more detailed, the Arts aren't struggling for ideas like no one's saying you have to, I mean there’s certainly a strain of pop art, but no one's saying OK, success of art is contingent on how quickly you get it.
Yeah that's also something Clement Greenberg mentions, to experience high art is a painful thing in a lot of cases as it frustrates you and it’s not something you… that's the different with kitsch art, you just look at it.
Yeah, you are done and it expends itself.
So you are saying is that the contemporary architect can almost hide behind his diagrams or her diagrams?
That's exactly what they do. “This is the only way the building could have been, because look at the diagram. 1,2,3,4,5…” Look It’s not my fault… this was this condition.
Yeah, “the sun comes at this angle, so this is it”.
I call that an alibi. I’ve written about it, I’ve had an ongoing argument with Joshua Prince-Ramus, because he has this idea that, the architects hand shouldn't be involved. There should be no evidence of me in that project it was automatically designed by the circumstances. “It wasn't me, don't blame me if you don't like it, it was the circumstances”. I'm the opposite I just say fuck the circumstances, if you want to do something meaningful and lasting you need a person who has skill and is willing to take some risks and not hide behind an alibi.
That clarifies your issues with MVRDV and Bjarke Ingels, because they have diagrams that are almost a recipe and it is step-by-step.
It’s Rem’s fault, Rem started it because he used those diagrams to support his work which was super formally designed. You don't come up with CCTV from a diagram, his diagram “oh yeah we wanted to have these floors and then this this group of people needed to be on the same floor as these people so we just made the building. (laughs) We spent 800 million dollars to turn the building like a loop so this group of people could be on the same floor as that group.” Most people just said all right put them on the ground floor and just do towers. He uses that as an excuse to justify his very strong formal talent, whereas his spin-off sitcoms are using those diagrams to hide behind, without the formal and intuitive intelligence, in my opinion.
That makes sense. So, the justification needs to be that it is just beautiful?
That is a tricky word, because it is so loaded. I like to say I am more interested in work now that invites curiosity, and that is why I like Graham Harman’s work, because he talks about an object as inexhaustible by any one of its qualities. You can say an apple is red but that doesn't tell you all about appleness, you could say it’s sweet and it keeps going and there are qualities you can't even access as a human, so an object is never exhaustible. If something is not exhaustible, and then it is the opposite of a sound bite when it is exhaustible in a moment. So an Architecture is something that is inexhaustible in that it looks one way from one angle, and another from another the closer you get you’re drawn into seeking more of its qualities. You are not “oh I get it I'm done, let’s go get a beer…” it is something that invites, I am really into what I call it the invitation to curiosity.
Which is why Frank Lloyd Wright's work is actually oftentimes really, really compelling, because his buildings do not exhaust themselves. You cannot tell what is going on by looking at the outside; you cannot tell what it is by going from far away. I was coming in through that hilarious airport that you have in Madison, it is kind of Frank Lloyd Wrighty. They went to Home Depot and bought four Frank Lloyd Wright chandeliers.
There's that move where he has those long canopies with the holes cut out so that they’re not really for shade, they just extend the roof. They have, one of those inside the airport that is just drywall with some lights on top of it, and I was thinking without the detail, the little the molding, that horizon line in the distance, that move is meaningless. It does not invite any curiosity, but when you see them in the context he is using the same move, and it invites curiosity. I always look at those things and think, “what the fuck is that thing? There is no roof on it, it’s not a shading device, it’s an extra-long forehead and the whole idea is there's an idea of extending the Horizon and these deep overhangs.
Phoenix is filled with these out of place Frank Lloyd Wright motifs too.
I can imagine.
Speaking about exhausting objects, that is our next question, we wanted to know. Is it too early to say post-digital has the digital been exhausted yet tor is there still a lot left there?
I am just exhausted from the word digital.
So, is it that “digital” is not special anymore, so actually we should stop saying digital, now that you're exhausted by it.
One of the things I have started to notice is that for all the good that came from the enlightenment, in the sciences originally, it also established a way of thinking. Carl Linnaeus developed the classification system of minerals plants and animals in Phylum, Kingdom, Species, and Architects, because we always steal our best ideas from science without understanding them. We started to do the same thing with architecture, you will go in to a bookstore and there is a section on sustainable architecture, a section on residential architecture, or this is in the modernist style, this is in the prairie style. We got into this habit of categorizing things and post digital is just another, way of categorizing things. One of the reasons that I like Graham Harman’s work, but also the statement that you would not rely on metaphors, tis that a category is almost a way of undermining something, you are not looking at the thing, you are looking at the category it goes in.
If I'm saying yeah, a kangaroo is a marsupial and a frog is an amphibian, that works in the same way as a metaphor, it's a marsupial, I don't have to think anymore I know where it belongs in the world. It does not invite my curiosity anymore, I have located it in the world, I am done. You are missing “the thing” you are not being invited to be more curious about the thing, you are being encouraged to believe that enough about it because you can put it in a category. So if someone says, “yeah that's blob architecture or yeah, that's whatever, Dutch architecture or deconstructive architecture. In my opinion that is just a way to, as Graham would say to overmine something, just another way to get it out of the way without having to think about it. If you look at the deconstruction show at MoMA with people who never even mentioned the word in their work as being deconstructed but they were categorized in that way.
So the term post digital it's just a legacy of wanting to have a name for what we're doing now, and I get it, if I was 25 right now, I would probably call myself post digital or something. It's a way of differentiating themselves from my generation and Greg Lynn’s generation and that's fine but it's not evidence of a new thing especially if it's shutting itself down by categorizing itself initially, and then also relying on the previous thing to tell you why it’s special. I think post digital is about as bad a term as post-modern. That is like saying food is post calorie, everything in our culture from here on out, now for the rest of time until the Great Apocalypse is going to be done digitally. It's an unfortunate term in the same way that post-modernism is an unfortunate term, in that it just took such a sweeping stab that it became meaningless.
I just wrote a eulogy for Venturi who died two days ago and one of the things I talked about was his struggle and how on the front cover of architect magazine he was quoted as saying “I am not and have never been a postmodernist”. From the father of post modernism! Because the term was so junky in meaning that it has become meaningless. I think it is a mistake for kids these days to call their work post digital.
That is what we are interested in with the post; it marks the utter commonality of whatever you are posting. It has become so common, to the point where you lose all bearing and it is completely meaningless.
Yeah, and it gets much trickier. If there is any post. We are probably in a post-categorizable architecture, it used to be really easy until 20 years ago. When everyone was getting the same architecture magazines in the same architecture books and there was a kind of hierarchy of what was legitimately called the school of thought. Deconstruction, blob architecture, it wasn't like people were tweeting images around, you got a magazine and you read it and kind of knew what was going on and there were a couple architecture websites but it wasn't like a billion images in your face every day. Now because everyone has this flat access to press and social media, you can say “the new thing now is post-digital” and he can say is “anything now is pro dirt”, or “Chromatic Activity”. Now there are a million categories which means claiming the existence of a new category is lost in a field of all the other categories so we've lost the moment where we're going to be able to 1975 to 1987 post-modernism reigned, 87 to 99 Deconstruction, 99 to 2006 digital blob architecture. The ability to categorize, compartmentalize, and see things clearly is a carefully wrapped school of thought is gone so the act of categorizing something as post-digital is an old idea because it's a category but it's also dumb to try to create a category in a world where there's nothing but categories.
It seems like you are almost, you are saying hold on a minute, let us go back and re-examine things, instead of just moving forward with all these categorizations. It is similar to the way Derrida asked us to go back and read the classics over and over again instead of contemporary things.
Well, that why my friends and I were at a point, there's no future for us in doing seamless surface digital work. It's fruitless for us to try to invent a new style or a new formal language or come up with a new script. Which is why we just went back to philosophy and started aligning ourselves with Timothy Morton, Graham Harman, Elaine Scary, and Jacques Ranicer. Looking not at (as a metaphor ironically) a new software program for architecture but new operating system. We do not need a new tool to do things with, but a new way of thinking, so all of us are dealing with this new philosophical material and all our work is very different. We don't know where it's going but as you were mentioning but there's no mileage left in thinking purely formally - which is hard for me to say as a formalist, but we need some different foundation on which to build a new architecture, that you just can't come from another new script.
You used a metaphor, so we are going to ask you for a category, what would you categorize getting a new operating system as? What would you call that?
I do not know… a hard reboot. We just have a monograph coming out in a couple weeks and Peter Eisenman wrote the after word for it and what he wrote about was the lack of ability for subjective estrangement to be a project in architecture.
What he means by that is that the way he made his architecture interesting, was by estranging it from modernism, like breaking modernist rules, but without a set of rules, you cannot do an estranged architecture from those rules. He was identifying the same thing that I said just now, that in a world where there are no rules, how do you estrange your own project from those rules. You cannot. Which is why when you guys are getting your Instagram feeds of all these different projects, there's no architectural image you could see that would, incense you, but if Frank Lloyd Wright had seen fucking Frank Gehry building, he would have been apoplectic! That’s not Architecture! There is no image about architecture, you could see a giant dick skyscraper and be like “big deal there are fucking dick skyscrapers you guys have seen everything, there is nothing that can challenge what you believe about architectural because you’ve already seen every possible iteration.
How do young architects find a way to navigate the landscape of ones and zeros the so-called landscape of endless scroll.
You people are a little bit more fucked that I am, because the way you differentiate yourself in culture is not by the quality of your distinction of what you do, it is how many people you get to follow it. So Kim Kardashian hasn't done anything, but she has more followers than anyone, so that's an important voice in your generation, so the way you become influential, is you have a lot of people following you. Which is the kind of Bjarke Ingel’s model, you know celebrity, everywhere all the time.
Or you just make a lot of money I guess, make some architectural app and sell it to Google or something but I don't know how you architecturally distinguish yourself these days.
How do you gain followers within a hard reboot?
You have to have a sex tape or something.
Inside, we mean.
Inside of architecture?
Discursively, you and your friends? Other than David Ruy’s program that turns out people like me, what are you?
What are we doing?
What kind of strategies do you have for changing architecture from the inside?
Well one idea my friends and I have been playing around with is that idea parafictionality, which I will talk about tonight, we all think our work is new and interesting, but we are interested in introducing it into the world in different ways. We did this tower on West 57th Street and we dropped it into the press as if it was a real project and we made sure that it was a real site that was being distinguished. We had friends in different real estate blogs that I presented as a real thing and it kind of went around the world.
Just 2 days ago I did an interview for the Travel Channel China and had a film crew of 10 journalists in our tiny little office, giggling little girls that want an autograph, and stuff because they've seen that project and they thought it was being built and they thought it was super famous. So they interviewed us all day long. (laughs) But finding a new way to introduce your work into the world is something else that Damien Hirst is doing in the art world, which I will talk about tonight, but finding other avenues for innovation that aren't just the shape of your building but maybe how your building is consumed maybe it’s how it's misunderstood.
I do not know it is hard to be controversial, doing a big cantilever, or putting a big ionic column on top of your building will just get you in the Chicago Biennale these days. That is post-post-modernism.
I write very critically of this, I like fun, I like to have fun, but I do not want my architecture to be fun, quirky, and easily disposable. I think a pink background gradient of a couple boxes in axonometric could be fun to look at, I like posters, but it does not really challenge my belief of what an architectural thing is it makes me embarrassed, that that is the best we can do?
Anyway, how do you differentiate yourself now as an architect? I think you have to use the tools that are new to your generation in the same way that we used the tools that were new to our generation. The tools of your generation, like social media, flat ontology of press, the fact that there are no gatekeepers. We were able to get that tower project into the press because no one was vetting whether the story was true or not, and it just went around the world wildfire, the news organization that picked it up, did not check to see if it was real. They were just reproducing stories that they had seen, which were reproduced by by others, which was on Curbed and Real Estate websites in New York City so everyone believed it was true, that manipulation of the circumstances of your own architectural world. When in mine it was, stealing software from Hollywood special effects industry, that not a lot of people were using in architecture so that was what was available to us. You people have different tools available to you, so you have to start with an architecture that invokes curiosity, which is interesting enough to look at for more than 5 seconds, and if you say that, it is supposed to look like a dolphin and it looks like a dolphin, that closes it down. It has to insight some curiosity, but you have to invent new ways to get it in to the world as well. Which is really as much of an architectural tradition as anything, I mean that's how Palladio became famous, he wrote about his work and drew his work as he wanted it to be built, not as it was actually built he was lying about and fictionalizing his projects before any other architect.
So that's why that's a challenge. To get a project into the world, it almost has to have that quick commercial quality to it, but then be interesting architecture, it has to have those deeper levels. It is like hiding, taking complexity and hiding it under this veil of simplicity. If you going to use social media, it has to be like a vine, you know 7 seconds and its up, right?
Our most succefsul projects on social media are the ones that are just so unbelievably complex, they seem unreal, so unrealistic that it demands your attention in some way, and now that that's been done, that's probably no longer an avenue.
There are many different ways of trying to architecturealize that difference. The proposals coming from your office so far are definitely one way of manipulating that. You cannot ask people to look at anything for very long, but I do not think it has to be too quick.
All you have to do is entice people to want to look further.
Curiosity, in a world where everything is a sound bite, the most powerful thing, which is something that can draw you deeper.
I’m, diametrically opposed against the aha moment diagram, the kind of Bjark Engels arrows in Pitch because it does the opposite of invite curiosity, it just turns architecture into a marketing thing.
So, the next question is, as architecture students, should we read more than we produce or should we just make stuff?
See you’ve fallen into the enlightenment trap — read more or produce stuff? Those are the two categories? You’ve categorized, right?
It's the wrong question.
It's the wrong question, I mean the hard part is…
The answer is yes.
The answer is yes, exactly (laughs)…
There is more so than in my moment of being young, when I was doing digital architecture 20 years ago.
Some people were trying to tap into Delueze as root material for that, but really, it was all mathematical theory that we were looking at, we were looking at nurbs (non-uniform rationally based splines) and calculus-based geometry, and typology and mathematicians. Those were the tools were using and that was the intellectual background of the tools, was the math. Nobody is theorized social media convincingly. It is so new to civilization that nobody knows what the fuck to make of it. Which means if you are going to do anything you need to come up with a framework that links architecture to that world. And you can do that through writing or reading or designing.
There has probably never been a change in the way humans. There has never been a greater change between humans and information as has happened in the last decade. You know there is probably the same amount of change between 0 AD and 200 AD as there was between 2000 and 2010. It's just a completely new world, we don't have any more gatekeepers, it used to be if you wanted to be a famous architect you basically needed to get Philip Johnson's permission, you needed Peter Eisenman’s permission. Now you just need to have a sex tape nobody gives a fuck with Peter Eisenman says anymore. Rem could be your dad and no one would give a shit, that idea of being anointed. Which completely fucked me over, because I'd spent a life cultivating Peter Eisenman (laughs). I got him to write this thing for my monograph, when everyone else was like “who’s Peter Eisenman?”
So should students graduate and go work first for Starchitects for zero money for years? Is that even necessary anymore?
Greg Linn gave me some good advice about money. He said “go work for who you want to be”, go see how the people you respect operate in the world, that's what you get out of an internship, not how to use a software program. In close quarters for extended periods of time with someone you respect and want to learn how they operate in the world, not just as an architect but human. That is why I taught with Greg Linn for 6 years. I just wanted to be near him and understand how he worked.
I have had a couple of mentors in my life, but he was a huge one not just in how you use software and stuff, but he's the nicest guy in the world. He is just so great to be around, how he runs his office, how he deals with his people in his outfit, it is a small office. I learned more than just architectural things for being around him sitting with Robert A. M. Stern and sitting with Peter Eisenman. Those are the people that probably influenced me most. just as humans. So work for who you want to be and who you respect. Not necessarily who you think is most famous or who can help you the most. This literary critic Harold Bloom at Yale who is super famous probably one of the most influential critics. Literature comparative literature type people in the world, also an expert on Shakespeare and super controversial figure, chauvinistic, he is about 100 years old, he was at a symposium at Yale, Peter Eisenman used his ideas of Miss Prison a lot in the late eighties and nineties.
Harold Bloom is up there on stage, he has this gravitas voice and Peter Eisenman is in the front row and Harold Bloom is quoting Shakespeare, he has a photographic memory and he says “Goethe says and Boethe says and he has all these literary references. Just super impressive and he says, “This architect this young Peter Eisenman clearly who doesn't understand my work but I love it.
Peter is 70! This young Peter Eisenman!
Anyway, he wrote this book called “The Anxiety of Influence” which is about poetry and he talks about, things that influence poets. Of course, what's happening around them in the world, but really the thing that influences them most, is that they have to do something other than what their mentor did in order to differentiate themselves, and that's the anxiety of influence. And the way you are influenced is not by copying your Mentor which is why everyone is pseudo-embarrassed of all the people who are still doing Frank Lloyd Wright work around Taliesin.
It is the anxiety of influence, right you want to be a Frank Lloyd Wright in the way that worked for Louis Sullivan and then he did his own thing. You are being indoctrinated. You people are having, the anxiety of influence, that's why you asked me the question, how do you differentiate yourself? You just do not know which Professor to differentiate your work from because there is not a Frank Lloyd Wright figure here anymore, but if there were, you people would all do spherical buildings or something. There would be an obvious target that you were supposed to shoot in the other direction of, and now you're just surrounded by targets and arrows are flying every which way because you have this anxiety of influence. So maybe architecture as we know it is dead and there will be no more influential architects of movements, which is why I talk about our firm as the rebel alliance in Empire Strikes Back. Under the ice mountain with 10 people and 2 robots, because that is how I feel where architecture with a capital A is right now.
Is that really what it is like?
Yeah, it is! There is a rebel alliance, there are like two bases, SCI Arc and there is a couple of embedded spies in architecture schools around the world that are introducing people to the movement. 99 out of 100 architecture schools are just teaching: this is how you get LEED Platinum, this is how you do an aha diagram, this is how you use BIM, you combine those things together in any relationship and you're going to be fine. If you look at how the use of Steel in architecture around the time of Louis Sullivan and calculate how much it completely reconfigured the industry, information technology is going to do that a hundred times more in a hundred times more potent way. All steel did to architecture is make it taller and more cantilevered but this information stuff, the internet, this lack of hierarchy. It is just going to, either boil architecture down so it is just as useless as everything else, just a product or a commodity. Or the fact that architecture is the only discipline that you can't digitize will make it the most valuable thing in the world.
You cannot email a space, right? You can email an image, you can email a song.
You cannot email taste.
Which is why chefs are so big and important and famous now and restaurants. But architecture should be highly resistant to that, but making the little “aha moment” diagram that you can email with the picture of the building turns it into that, but it just takes away space as a requirement, so Architecture may just become this super connoiuseur-y thing. Renaissance lute music or something.
Like private infinity rooms…
Yeah, exactly, something that only a very few people will really, really respect and be interested in, which is what it has been in different moments throughout history.
That’s the opposite of Post, because it’s super novel…
For your Log article the date’s 2015, right? That's pre-Trump. How is that going to hold up to what just happened over the last 2 years... even if it did hold up.
Yeah, there are some things that have nothing to do with it. Any political book is useless. I was going to buy a book by Naomi Wolf and I realized it was written in 2013 and I was like, “what the fuck is the point of that?” It might as well have been written in 840 BCE!
That's what I mean, the world has changed so fucking dramatically in the last 5 years. The last 2 years are just so unrecognizable, so that should be super scary but also super liberating because there's more shit to play with than ever before in architecture.
We should be the creative people thinking about how to do that but I think it's not using old scripts I'm going to use weirder shapes than that guy or I'm going to use older shapes than the original post modernists. They were using Roman, I’m going Greek, you know…
You can’t outdo something that's already been done before.
I don't have all the answers..
OK. Well, thank you so much. This was great.
Good luck with your anxiety.
Mark Foster Gage is an American architect practicing as head of his eponymous firm, Mark Foster Gage Architects, in New York City. He is also the Assistant Dean, Chair of Admissions and tenured Associate Professor at the Yale University School of Architecture.