I had the pleasure of attending a lecture held last week in downtown LA at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The lecture was held by the Otis College of Art and Design. It’s an annual lecture series featuring cutting edge designers and topics.
I was very impressed with some of the work I saw, and feel compelled to share. J. Mayer H. is an architect. His office is in Berlin and his work can be seen worldwide. I had not heard of J. Mayer H. before the lecture but probably should have. His work ranges from materials, products and patterns to buildings, public spaces and what he calls “nation building.” He has an obsession with the rhyme and rhythm of patterns, especially those tiny patterns that come on envelopes to code information that we want kept a secret. He takes those patterns and gives them life. Or he pulls the life out of them. He uses these patterns in the design of buildings, furniture and custom materials. His work creates futuristic looking forms that somehow seem to blend seamlessly with their surroundings, no matter how drastically unusual in materials and design. He is pioneering innovative materials research. Looking at his “buildings without corners” you can’t distinguish where the floor starts and wall begins, or if it’s not a wall but actually the ceiling. He’s constructing enormous structures with timber. By using a highly compressed laminated wood and polyurethane coating, the details seal the structure within a panelized system. The prefabricated pieces enable the construction of amazing rounded, organic structures for a fraction of the cost of steel and concrete. These buildings are more energy efficient due to highly effective envelope sealing strategies.
Especially impressive is his work in Eastern Europe, including Georgia. Here the government has hired his firm to help reinvigorate the urban core of the city. Buildings include a town hall, gas stations, rest stops, an airport, community center and park. The iconic structures are tourist destinations themselves, in a way resembling something you would see from Gaudi. Amoebic, cellular forms and fluid movements through structure with keen attention to detail.
Looking at the renderings these structures look like they came from space. Actual photos show that, despite contrasting styles, the buildings somehow harmoniously fit into the surrounding landscape, almost mimicking the forms of nature. The most interesting elements are in his innovation in materials and detail. I can only imagine the set of construction details that goes along with a building that has no corners, where ceiling blends to wall, to floor. This truly is architecture of the 21st century and gives us a glimpse at what I think we will be seeing a lot more of in the coming decades.
At the end of the lecture a woman asked J. Mayer what he thought her grandmother would say if she went to one of his buildings. Would she be able to identify with it? Would it be appealing to her? Or would she be unable to relate to or understand the futuristic style? He responded by saying “You would make a great politician.” Because of course, that is what they always say. But he made a good point when he countered that there is desire for the new and a desire for change in everybody. Projects like this can tap into this, as well as people’s imagination. They excite people. They make trends and create memorable places. I look forward to seeing more of J. Mayer and other designers with innovations of this level.
For more project photos check out:
Some of my personal favorites are the Mestia Airport in Georgia, Dupli Casa in Germany and Metropol Parasol.