16 March 2011

Juergen Mayer H. / J. MAYER H. Architects

1. In past interviews you have discussed the shift from thinking/designing from material to form to thinking/designing from structure to material. What is the role of scale in this transition?

JMH: If you develop certain questions about the potential of architecture and how it generates a dialog between client´s needs, context and an inherent architectural discussion, you will find that scale is increasingly unimportant, in other words, to investigate certain concerns in different scales cross-references from the object to the urban context. The small objects and furniture pieces start with a specific material and develop their concept from there. Houses and larger buildings focus on an overall atmosphere, including light, sound, noise, color and texture. The way we detail and select materials is based on the specific requirements for each part of the building, a complex patchwork of material selection with a homogeneous appearance.

2. What is the relationship to technology in your work? Architects have to contend with technology on so many levels. They have to ensure that it aids work-flow and that it enriches an experience. 

JMH: One major investment in our work is looking at expanding the material of architecture, say beyond just building material. The influence of new media and new materials definitely expands our understanding of “space” as a platform for communication and sociocultural interactivity. We look closely at the site, critically rethink the programme and try to extract something that is special to the specific site. In case of Danfoss Universe for example the ground and outdoor quality was guiding the design process for the buildings as ground modulations. We believe that architecture should work as an activator to move people from a passive mode of expectation to an involved level of participation and attention.

3. The project that introduced me to your work was Cumulus for Danfoss Universe. I am struck by how accurately your statement that it "communicates between ground and sky" describes the project and outlasts the blink of an eye. How did you conceive of the form and most importantly how were you able to realize it? Does it constitute the beginnings of your recent book Arium? 

JMH: Danfoss Universe is a science park dedicated to opening eyes and raising curiosity to explore the world. With our buildings, architecture becomes a major component in the educational and pedagogical landscape of Danfoss Universe. The height of the church tower nearby is the marker for the height of all buildings in the city of Nordborg. First this seemed to be a challenge for the multi-purpose temporary exhibition space building. Surprisingly the church immediately supported the project and its educational agenda for bringing mostly young people closer to technology and science. The integration of landscape, nature and technology at Danfoss Universe is a perfect mix to think architecture as one component of a larger environment. Arium is a guidebook to Weather and Architecture. Examining the relationship between the atmosphere, built environment, culture, and politics, this comprehensive research project. The book offers an in-depth look at our contemporary understanding of weather through critical examinations of design and architecture.

4. Receiving feedback on a project is about creating connections between creators and end-users. As a site of cultural production, what kind of feedback can architecture elicit at the scale of the city and the individual? What are some of your firm's projects that are important in relation to this question? 

JMH: Architecture should work as an activator to move people from a passive mode of expectation to an involed level of participation and attention. It is my assumption that unconsciously we might built sculptural objects as buildings by challenging ourselves to invent new details in order to avoid details. For example, the project dupli.casa has a white coating. The whiteness envelopes the entire building and even extends in to the garden. From further away it all looks the same thing. However, when you get closer you might see changes in the materials depending on the specific requirements from stucco and polyurethan to rubber, etc. What looks easy and clear, is actually a very precise mix of various construction modes and material selection.

5. In Grey Grid you translate an object into an idea for a building. What is the most challenging aspect of this transition from a design perspective and from a logistical point of view?

JMH_ Formerly decorated with stucco ornament, this existant apartment building is transformed into 4 multistory townhouse units with a new roof top, and covered with a contemporary pattern. The grey color of the East German paint on the old building is transformed into pattern grids by multiple photoshop raster filter modulations. Facades, roof and courtyard show the same pattern in different materiality according to programmatic needs. Grey.grid overlays the regular window grid with an electronically generated relief.

6. This interview is about bridging between architecture as pure formal expression and architecture as an interactive environment, between architecture as icon and architecture as a sensory experience. Who are some important or interesting artists working at this intersection for you?

JMH: Architecture is a catalyst which is not a background to an everyday life, but something that provokes you to rethink spatial conditions. I always ask myself – how do we live? How do we occupy our spaces? I am looking for architecture that would foresee changes or even better – allow inventive social changes to take place. For that reason I really admire the work of Frederick Kiesler: "His unorthodox architectural drawings and plans that he called "polydimensional" were somewhat akin to Surrealist automatic drawings. (..) For it, he sought to dissolve the visual, real, image, and environment into a free-flowing space. He likewise pursued this approach with his “Endless House,” exhibited in maquette form in 1958–59 at The Museum of Modern Art." (Quotation: Wikipedia)

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